The Laughing Fool

So this is a new one. When Ashton mentioned going to laughter yoga, I thought: “that’s a thing?” Who knew? And, being the crack blogger that I am, I did absolutely no research prior to going. I assumed that it was yoga with some forced laughter breaths while holding the poses or something. So I show up in my yoga clothes, with my yoga mat to the Sunalta Community Centre at 7pm March 18, 2015, and the two ladies there tell me that my mat isn’t needed, “we’re here to play!” Okay. You’re going to feel ridiculous, they tell me. We’ll start off forcing laughter and end up actually laughing because of how silly it is. Okay. More regulars start to show up, and they start giggling and guffawing in greeting. Okay. “We’re going to go to the door, and drop off our adult. We don’t need it for this class,” and we do. Everyone walks to the door to do so, and comes back to our seats. Okay. Sitting in chairs in a circle, we start clapping and chanting “Ho ho ho, ha ha ha, very good, very good, yay,” ending with hands in the air. Okay...

Then the craziness begins. The best way to describe this class is a group of adults running around and acting like children. Several of these “exercises” are games lifted from the elementary school teacher playbook, such as running around, pointing and laughing, joining hands, dancing, lying on the floor with our heads on each other’s bellies while we laugh. The motives are the same—to release tension and nervous energy. Kids just take to it naturally, whereas adults seem to have to force themselves to look silly and ridiculous.

As a mom, silly and ridiculous are just part of my routine. I have to say that I spend a lot of my day laughing, singing, and clapping. Well, okay, I’ll be honest. I did that before I became a mother as well. “Giggles” is actually a nickname that I’ve had. I generally clap when something pleases me. I make up songs—usually about my cats or husband—and sing them like no one is listening. People probably wish they weren’t listening, but that’s not my problem.

I don’t necessarily act that way at work, of course. I don’t giggle when my patients tell me about their health problems, or make light of my coworkers’ personal problems. That would be entirely inappropriate behavior. So I can see how some people, who don’t spend time around children or ridiculous adults, don’t have an outlet for the nervous energy we all accumulate adult-ing it up day in, day out.

I had never really thought about any health benefit to my silly habits before, but rather about how they (and my blonde hair, I’m convinced of it) make it difficult for people to take me seriously sometimes. But, apparently, there is some scientific basis for the impact of laughing upon mood and health. Studies of IT professionals in Bangalore, chemotherapy patients, depressed geriatric patients, and patients awaiting organ transplant demonstrate improvement post-laughter yoga participation. Further study needs to be done to account for the placebo and Hawthorne effects, but ultimately that does not really matter. If people are enjoying themselves and getting benefit from it, I can’t see how it could possibly hurt. I can especially see the utility of such a practice for people with limited mobility and resources, such as the hospitalized or those in long-term care. There is no equipment needed and you can do it anywhere.

Participants at the laughter yoga session I went to said that they felt “relaxed,” “expanded,” and “grateful” after their experience, and that’s pretty amazing. If you’re feeling stressed and want to try something outside-the-box, give it a try! All you need is a donation and an open mind.

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