As I write this (on the tube back from Archway in deepest darkest North London) my face is burning hot and my cheeks and stomach hurt, but I can’t help but smile to myself.
I’ve just been to Laughter Yoga, which I found on a great website I’ve discovered called Meet Up. I dragged my friend Eleisha with me, and it’s fair to say we had no idea what to expect!
We turned up at Hargrave Hall to what looked like an AA meeting (just to clarify I’ve not been to AA myself, but it looked like what you see in films). It was a small community hall with twelve women and two men sitting in a circle on plastic chairs. A few people said hello and started chatting, but generally it was a bit awkward and very apprehensive.
Odette introduced herself as the teacher and told us a little about Laughter Yoga. It was invented by a doctor in India in 1995, whose wife was a yoga instructor. The gist is that you get the same endorphins from fake laughter as you do from real laughter. And laughter is infectious, so even with fake laughing – once everyone gets going there will be some real laughter and you’ll all be at it. How true that is!
Before I carry on I should mention that Laughter Yoga is nothing really like actual yoga. One of the similarities is that it’s about the breath, but you don’t do any poses or anything.
After a deep breath in and a bit of shaking about we were asked to give ourselves a score in our heads of how we were feeling at the start, a ten being the highest. I’ll be honest, I was very tired and feeling sluggish so I gave myself a five. And then we began! We did so many different exercises that I definitely won’t remember them all, but I’ve written down what I can remember below in roughly the order we did them…
– Told each other our names and why we’d come (Ashleigh, and I am doing 52 new things this year. Hello!) At the end of our sentence we had to do a big “HA HA HA”
– Proper teethy smiling at each other whilst walking around and shaking hands
– Walking around doing ‘shy’ laughter to each other, so covering the mouth and little giggles
– Walking around doing surprised laughter like we hadn’t seen each other in forever, slapping the knees type laughter
– A game where we stood in a circle and threw an invisible ball to each other. You could change the ball from pass to pass, so a tiny ball juggled to the person next to you, a giant heavy ball rolled along the floor, etc.
– In two teams we passed giant balloons along the line between our knees!
– Learning how to laugh to make you feel better if you’re on your own, so laughing on our pretend phones, and at a pretend book.
– Learning how to laugh in adversity. I loved this one. We had to pretend we’d got a huge credit card bill and laugh at it, showing the others and laughing with them too.
– Made a funny noise orchestra, where when pointed at you had to make your funny noise!
– Sitting on the floor opposite a partner that you didn’t know, making eye contact and laughing together for about a minute
– Sitting on the floor in small groups talking in total gibberish, in all different tones
I’ve probably missed half of what we did there was so much!
Everything was done together, and in such good spirits – you were genuinely laughing with everyone and no one was laughing at you.
My favourite was at the end when we all had to lie down in a circle, heads in the middle, and just relax. The laughter in this bit was genuinely hysterical. Me and Eleisha both cried! I was cackling, and then everyone would get it together and stop – before someone else started off and everyone was at it again. It was honestly hilarious – I think we were there for over ten minutes but it just flew.
After we’d got a bit of a grip we did a meditation and relaxed, and then sat up and went round to give our scores and say how we were feeling.
I am pleased to report I’m now a nine! People felt really happy, like they’d connected with people and really brightened their day. One lady said she’d felt good when she came in, but now everything seemed more ‘colourful’.
What could be better than that?!
If you’d like to do some Laughter Yoga, I’d definitely recommend Odette. You can find out more on her website here.
You could also check out Meet Up for Laughter Yoga near you.