Sunday May 1st was World Laughter Day and I found myself in the presence of jolly souls engaged in what is one of my favorite activities. Laughter is portable, spontaneous, calorie free (actually burns calories:), fat free, cholesterol free and can be done by anyone at any age and with any physical ability.
According to the official Laughter Yoga website , Laughter Yoga is:
“The brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, a Physician from Mumbai, India, launched the first Laughter Club at a Park on March 13, 1995, with merely a handful of persons. Today, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 6000 Social Laughter Clubs in about 60 countries.
Laughter Yoga combines Unconditional Laughter with Yogic Breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can Laugh for No Reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.”
A few years ago, I had read about the concept and as a clown and yoga student, I was fascinated. Since some of my work over the years has also been as a therapist/social worker, I have witnessed first hand, the benefits of the two modalities (yoga and laughter) combined to help heal depression.
Through social networking, I encountered a man who lives and laughs on the other side of the country from where I am. His name is Jeffrey Briar and his labor of laughter and love includes daily Laughter Club gatherings in Laguna Beach, California. We had corresponded for awhile and then one day, my friend Peggy Tileston asked if I wanted to attend a Laughter Yoga weekend training in Philadelphia. I was only available for the Friday night intro. I asked who the teacher would be and her response spread an ear to ear grin on my face. “Some guy from California.” “Is it Jeffrey Briar?” She confirmed that it was indeed my pen pal who would be leading us through all manner of fun and inventive exercises designed to send delightful giggles and guffaws through the room.
Today, it was my friend Peggy who taught the class within the hard wood floor and pastel painted walls of the Mt. Airy Yoga Studio, in Philadelphia owned by Mary Flinn. We were greeted at the door by the waggly tailed Lola who proceeded to stretch a few minutes later in (no kidding), a canine version of downward facing dog:) What followed was the sheer joy of giggles, chuckles and guffaws, dancing, jumping around, stretching, doing exercises such as conducting a laughter symphony orchestra, engaging in laughter argument, telling a laughter secret, opening a laughter tinged Visa bill, and all in gibberish. Even canned laughter is a catalyst into the experience. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between laughter AT something and simulated snickers that open the door to full blown belly laughs.
The feeling of freedom that comes from letting go into laughter is priceless. It is estimated that adults laugh 15-17 times a day, while children laugh 300-400 times a day. Imagine what your life would be liked if you emulated children in that regard. Imagine what the world would be like if we learned to laugh together in one universal language.
So today, I invite you to laugh yourself silly.