If you don’t know what laughter yoga is it’s basically a mix of relaxation exercises, yogic breathing and giggly bits, designed to make you happy. It’s huge in India and I had really wanted to try it when I was there but simply didn’t have enough time – so I was very excited when I got an email from the people at Go Ahead biscuits to say they were putting on some sessions. I might not have been surrounded by giggling women in amazing saris in a park in Mumbai for the experience, but I thought I’d give it a try.
As the day of the event appeared I moved from excited to nervous. What exactly was I letting myself in for? I was very worried it was going to be like one of those drama classes at school where you have to pretend you were going to be a lion – albeit a happier one and I wasn’t far wrong….but I’m jumping ahead. First let me tell you why you might want to do laughter yoga.
Laughter has a therapeutic effect on the body – one akin to exercise. Laughing lowers blood pressure, burns calories, tones the abdominals, lowers cortisol and helps immunity. The idea of laughter yoga is kind of a fake it until you make it effect – if you’re not lucky enough to be surrounded with people or things that naturally set you off with the giggles, simply start laughing away to yourself using some exercises and you can begin to create the same positive effects anyway.
On the night of the event, I rapidly progressed from nervous to ‘what the heck am I doing here’ – mostly because I was the only person in the room not in yoga kit. I’d figured that if Indian ladies in saris can do it, then I didn’t need kit – and turned up to a room full of people in trainers and leggings in my work frock and plimsols. Thankfully, my sari theory was proved correct, but during the thirty minutes we were in the room, I progressed through feelings of ‘be brave’….’oh dear god’……’could I faint, they’d let me leave if I faint,,,,how do you faint?’ ……’no, that’s not working, let’s just never speak of this again’ finally ending with ‘that was bonkers but actually quite fun’.
As I feared,there was an element of high school drama lesson – we started off having to exhale (can do that) but it rapidly progressed to now make the sound of any feelings you need to let out with this breath. The only feeling I at this point needed to let out was extreme mortification, which seems to sound like a slightly hissy breath with an added swinging effect as I rotated my head from side to side trying to locate the door. Our teacher Melanie Bloch was brilliant though and realising that she had a group of slightly terrified writers on her hands, just went for it leaving us to catch up once our stiff upper lips left the building.
The strange thing is, I’m naturally quite a laughy person. I’d spent the whole 20 minutes before trying out a very serious, extremely expensive piece of exercise equipment and giggling my way through the whole thing, but now….it was kind of like when the doctor asks you to pee in a cup, nothing was coming out. Nope, not happening….until, ta-dah….we learned the laughter yoga praise chant; which basically sees you bending forward, clapping your hands twice as you say ‘very good, very good’ then flinging your arms in the air to the word YAY. Yay is one of my favourite words. I love saying yay….this I could do.
Sadly we rapidly went back to the terrifying….moves like making eye contact when you are trying to fake laugh, creating a drink of happiness which then turned into stumbling round pretending to be pissed and bumping into your fellow laughites, we then had to speak gibberish, helping us let go of any negative feelings and energies we wanted to get out. While I was kind of hating every single second (except the ‘very good, yay’ bit), I do admit you had to laugh. It was just madness, and eventually there was nothing to do but giggle. However, then Melanie said the magic words to the man at the back controlling the music ‘shake it off,’ she said. Noooooo, went my little mind. Was there going to be Tay-Tay; actually it was a Tay-Tay cover, probably for Spotify reasons, but we got to sing and dance to that and Daydream Believer and…..JOY……which says everything you need to know about me. I’d been slowly wishing I could die up until now but put me in a place where I can sing and dance round the room and I’m the loudest person there (despite not being the most in tune).
Reading this you might think I hated the experience – I kind of did and I kind of didn’t. I think if you went a few times with the same group it might actually be quite good fun, or it would be 20 odd minutes of mortification a week I’m not sure. But I have found myself wandering around a lot saying ‘very good, very good….yay’ a lot all week.
I’d still really like to try it in India though, look, how awesome is this video below….although I admit I’d be like the woman in the yellow sari about 18 seconds in who’s just wondering what on earth she’s let herself in for.
If you want to give it a try yourself, you’ll find Laughter Yoga classes around the UK, simply visit the Laughter Yoga webpage http://www.laughteryoga.org/english/club/home to find your nearest.