Saturday, April 11, 2015

Laughter Yoga

Yoga has become so popular in the area that you can't really get by as a "student of happiness" without at least giving it a try.  All the happiness experts recommend it and rave about the benefits of stretching and meditation.  I have a problem, though. I'm about the least flexible person on the earth.  The couple of times I actually ventured out to a class, I spent most of my time in the only position I've really mastered: Child's Pose.  And no matter how many times I heard that no one judges ("Namaste!") I still am embarrassed by my unbalanced poses. I tried to improve in the privacy of my home with the help of YouTube videos, but my Downward Dog (not to mention just about every other pose) is ridiculously inept.

Another "happiness" recommendation is laughter. I have to agree that nothing feels quite so good as a great big laugh... it's hard to feel stressed or sad if you're laughing.

Well, "Laughter Yoga" is this movement started by Dr. Madan Kataria, "The Laughter Guru" and laughter yoga clubs are popping up all over the world.  I'm always into new experiences so when I saw there was a nearby club, I thought I'd check it out.  I figured I'd fit right in and provide entertainment since my yoga poses were so laughable.

As it turns out, we didn't do the traditional yoga (thank goodness!) but more fun little games that helped us exercise our "laughing muscles."  OK, this felt a little more like an Improv class than an exercise class, but I'm all for games of any sort.  I was warned that as a new person, I'd feel a little uncomfortable, and that it would take about four classes to start to see the benefits... at which point, apparently, I'd have the ability to break into laughter at any time. This is particularly useful, I was told, during times of stress.

Well, being someone who has broken into uncontrollable fits of laughter at inappropriate times (church, class, work meeting), I wasn't sure I needed practicing in laughing, but maybe more practice in being able to control my laughter!  I remember once as a kid, when my brother farted in church, I couldn't stop laughing no matter how many stern looks my parents threw my way!

But I digress. Other than the insanely, uncontrolled laughing, there's no doubt, laughing helps us relieve stress, and being able to "laugh on demand" is bound to help put us in a better mood.  Much like smiling with someone, laughing with someone certainly seems to create a connection. Even though I'd just met the 15 or so people in the class, laughing together helped me feel welcome and uninhibited. It was a lot less intimidating than Yoga Poses! I am actually pretty good at laughing!

I also liked that some of the "games" were aimed at defeating negative emotions and embracing the positive. I'm all about looking for the positive in life and I admire those who help spread positivity in the world. As Lori, the facilitator on Thursday said, "It's contagious!"

I'm not sure if I'd recommend breaking out into a big belly laugh when you're stressed in the office - at least not publicly.  Just sneak into the bathroom and let the fits of laughter begin!

Much thanks to the Arvada Laughter Yoga group for giving me a great first experience with Laughter Yoga and for bringing more happiness and laughter to the world.  Laugh on! Or as the mantra goes (said with an Indian accent as taught by Dr. Kataria): "Veddy good, Veddy good, Yay!"

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