Laughter and Why It’s So Important…
So, last year, I came across a yoga class called “Laughter Yoga”. The name alone intrigued me, and I knew at some point, I had to check it out. My first thought was “what is THIS?” I mean, with all the different styles of yoga out there today, I have to say it had me curious, to say the least.
But like everything else, and for so many, it took me some time to get there. It was offered only once a month, so limited times were available. Of course, something would always come up restricting me from attending the class each month. So one month, I made it a priority. I put it on my calendar, told myself I would go, and made sure I would attend at all costs. And now, I’m reaping the benefits, and so relieved I got myself there.
It’s been noted that laughter is a great “cure” for many issues. Stress, for one, is one of the most prevalent issues damaging our bodies these days. Allowing oneself a good belly laugh increases endorphins, and helps aid in muscle relaxation. These just being a couple of the many other great benefits laughing can create.
So how does it work? Well, when you get into a good belly laugh, a great amount of oxygen gets into the system, much like yoga breathing, that stimulates and awakens the heart, lungs and surrounding muscles. At first, the body gets stimulated, and raises heart rate and blood pressure, but then as endorphins are released, the body immediately comes back to rest sending a great relaxed feeling running through your entire body.
For someone like me, with a history of anxiety, the idea of an “energetic” class made me a bit nervous. Certain styles of yogic breathing used to increase my anxiety. (Kapalabhati, for example, where you intentionally pulse the belly to get that inner fire erupted, increasing heart rate and blood pressure and use that to “get out” stress was one that used to make me nervous.) Knowing that we “fake it till you make it” sounded a bit like that idea, but the affects were definitely different here. It doesn’t bring you up, and keep you up OR bring on anxiety. You see, when in a laugh, the body is focused on the laugh, and since the mind can’t do more than two things at once, you can’t really be anxious while laughing. It’s been said that you can’t “get anxious” when concentrating on the breath either, like in kapalabhati, but those of us who have anxiety know that, it can, and in fact, does happen. Laugher is natural, not forced, and even though we sort of “force” the laughter at first, the real laughter takes over and the natural, healing affects of the body take over.
Another wonderful quality of the laughter yoga is, unlike traditional yoga where the focus is on the individual, you connect together with the people in the room. We laugh together working with each others’ energy, which is very soothing and safe. But the true gift, is the feeling that we are doing this all together. We are experiencing together, we are safe together. So, there is no fear, there is only comfort. It was an overall feeling of community, love, and understanding of one another. We may be different, but we all experience the difficulties of life together, even when we feel alone.
The best piece of this experience, was what I learned about myself. There was a section of the practice where we were guided to drape our arms down towards the floor and cry it out. (Not real crying, just acting out the tears and movement.) We were instructed to then bring our arms up over our heads and turn those tears into laughter and laugh it out. What threw me was when we were down in the crying part, with arms draped, I felt comfy. This was my comfy spot, my go-to place, my place of solace. I also found it difficult to turn those “tears” into "laughter" as we raised our arms up. Hmmmmm… This was a HUGE eye opener for me, for it was at that moment I realized I used to enjoy my sorrow. When things go wrong, I would turn to the negative instead of the positive. Ergo, I need to laugh more, and I need to smile more. I need to take life a bit less serious. While in that downward crying section, I saw my kids. I saw my husband. I saw any friend I had in the past that I became friends with “because they made me laugh”. Wow. Such an amazing "a-ha" moment! I needed to allow more laughter in my life. Just, in general, to be happier. Period. End of story.
When I left the class, I felt calm. I was relaxed, and I felt safe. I felt connected with the people I was in the room with, and the world felt a little smaller and a bit warmer to me. To top the night off, I had a great nights sleep.
Laughing is therapeutic, it is fun, and especially when we are stressed, it is necessary for overall well-being. It helps keep us positive, and brings us the warm gushy feelings inside we all deserve.
Here are just a few of the benefits of laughing:
-Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
-Improves interpersonal relationships and connects people
-Diffuses negative thoughts and feelings
-Increases oxygen to the brain
-Enhances weight reduction
-Reduces blood pressure and heart rate
-Promotes better sleep
-Reduces pain and symptoms of chronic illnesses
-Improves digestion, and absorption of food
So grab your friends, grab your family and get gigglin’!
**Since this post was published, I have become a Laughter Yoga Leader and have incorporated a lot of these methodologies into my yoga classes. For reducing anxiety, make a list of what makes you laugh. This can be a favorite funny show or movie, a friend or friends you can call or hang out with, or a recording of a favorite comedian you enjoy, etc. When any of these aren't available, remember that you can just fake a laugh. It sound ridiculous, but the benefits outweigh doing nothing. To learn more, find a Laughter Yoga class in your area. The point is to find or create situations in your life that will allow you to let loose and laugh on a daily basis. A daily dose of laughter can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Your brain simply can't be depressed or anxious when you are laughing, and over time, you can see results in yourself. As you start to feel tension, breathe, relax your body and smile. This alone may help you. Allow yourself to feel the positive affects of a smile...then let that smile turn to laughter...
Love and peace... XO
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Michelle has a BS, E-RYT, YACEP, CHN, CLYL, and Y12SRL.