Laughter Yoga – fake it until you make it

Let’s face it, we are all dealing with something right now.  Raging fires (and the effects of the smoke beyond them), super hurricanes, politics, pandemics and all the normal crap life shovels on us.  Oh! And Mars went retrograde until November 13th (yes, a Friday) and that supposedly brings up lots of anger and confrontational feelings.  In the past few weeks, I’ve heard “I don’t think an adventure attitude can help me right now.”  However, one tenet of an adventurous mindset is to always be curious.  Since I too was skimming the edges of depression, I grabbed onto an idea that I need to laugh.  A friend had introduced me to the concept of laughter yoga a few years back, so I decided to explore it further.  Always good to have a tool to help you let loose some of those ugly emotions and lighten up, right?  The best thing I discovered about Laughter Yoga? You can fake it until you make it.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Laughter Guru teaching a class
Dr. Kataria, who started the whole Laughter Yoga movement years ago to help his patients. He now offers courses to become a certified Laughter Yoga instructor!

Do you remember Reader’s Digest’s column called “Laughter is the Best Medicine”?  I always believed that, but apparently, there is science to back up that laughter is good medicine.  There’s research on cancer patients, endorsements from institutions like the Mayo Clinic and the personal testimony from the Laughter Guru, Dr. Madan Kataria – a doctor from a small town in India. Kataria has said that laughter yoga “is based upon the scientific fact that, even if you laugh for the sake of laughing, even if you are pretend laughing, your body cannot tell the difference.”

Studies have shown that laughter can reduce depression, stress, anxiety, reduces pain perception, increases blood flow and help build muscles.  The endorphins produced can have a lasting effect, up to 45 minutes afterward.  Laughing also helps you connect with others (even on Zoom!), bring out your inner child, and guides you to being present instead of worrying about the future.  Laughter is a major emotion, and can help you release other suppressed feelings.  Did you know that 10 minutes of laughter is the same as 30 minutes of cardio? So, if it’s so good for you, why not try it?

The way we have all been feeling, why not give anything a try? Take the risk – it can’t hurt!

Fake laughter

If the Laughter Guru says your brain doesn’t know the difference between fake laughter and real laughter, then don’t feel goofy when you can’t laugh on command.  Fake it until you make it!  I tried it recently, following a challenge.  It did feel weird, but that very oddness made me start to laugh (at myself).  Jeff Harry, of Rediscover Your Play , is (among many fun things) a certified Laughter Yogi.  He taught me a few of the 100s of different “fake” laughs that can get you started.  There’s the “milkshake” and the “old man” or “young child” laughs.  Basically these moves are pantomimes combined with breath work and laughing.  His favorite is the Laughing Circle where one introduces oneself and then laughs.  This happens throughout the circle.  Eventually someone will start giggling – either because of someone else’s silly laugh or the ridiculousness of the whole situation.  Pretty soon the laughs start coming in waves!

Change Your Perspective

Meg Laughter Meditation
Meg leading a Laughter Yoga session at an outdoor event. She wants to pass the amazing feelings that laughter produces to others through events like this!

A good friend, Meg, and I were discussing her experience with Laughter Yoga.  She first came across it at Burning Man in 2014.  It was one of those days, where she had been at her wits end, feeling disconnected and incredibly cranky.  Somehow, the Universe led her to a dome where there was a Laughter session going on, and she joined in.  Laughing is so contagious!  By the end, she felt like she came out a different human.  Meg mentioned she was leading a seminar for her job this past week, and was going to try a Laughter Meditation.  Turns out it was exactly what everyone needed!

Laughter Meditation

Your turn!  Here’s the 10-minute meditation she based hers on (credit: Chopra)

Laughter meditation is one of the easiest forms of meditation. You’ll start by stretching your body, then you’ll practice laughing and end with silence. Follow these simple steps and reap the benefits of this healing practice:

1-2 minutes: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and stretch your arms high above your head. Rock your body side-to-side from your torso, then bend over and touch your hands to your feet. Next, massage your jaw and yawn at least two times to loosen your mouth and relax the muscles in your jaw.

3-5 minutes: Find a comfortable position to sit or stand. Start by slightly smiling and then begin laughing without too much effort. Move to deep belly laughs. (Hint: try different types of laughs to encourage your true laugh to come through. Even if it begins as a forced feeling, most people find the forced laughter catalyzes authentic laughter in no time.)

3-5 minutes: Sit or lie on the floor in stillness and silence. Be mindful of what comes up for you—how your body feels, emotions that present themselves, and thoughts that arise. (Optional: share what comes up with a trusted friend or write it down in a journal.)

Find a Laughter Yoga class

Laughter Yoga by the Funny Yogi
Check out the Funny Yogi’s intro video

There are laughter yoga classes, clubs and group meetings all over the globe.  Often these classes are offered for free, as the spread of laughter, lifting of spirits and better health is the goal that Dr. Kataria intended.  (However, if you want to support your local instructor – please do!).  You do not need a special mat, fancy clothes or other gear.  Just the desire to share a laugh or three.  You could search YouTube and find instructions for doing it on your own.  I started with this one “Fake it until you Make It: A Technique For Laughing Alone” At the recommendation of Jeff Harry, I have signed up for a class with The Funny Yogi. Jessica Brustad is in Seattle, but with her regular Saturday classes as a video course – it doesn’t matter where we are! 

Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha!

Let me know if you’ve tried this, and what you felt!  Why not? It can’t hurt and it will most likely put you in a healthier mindset or at least a better mood – something we could all use these days!

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