In these days of economic trouble and stress, people are looking for a therapy that can relieve their anxiety, depression and physical ailments without costing a lot of money. Laughter Yoga is quickly becoming the people’s choice of therapy because it is cheap and it is fun. But what really goes on at a Laughter Yoga class?
I signed up for a Laughter Yoga class on a whim. I had no idea what Laughter Yoga was, but I knew I needed to do something about my increasing stress levels. When I saw it advertised in my city’s Community Education booklet I signed up.
I pictured all of us sitting in an auditorium listening to a comedian desperately trying to make us laugh. Maybe they would play some funny home videos on the big screen. Perhaps they would show YouTube videos of babies laughing which always makes me laugh.
When I arrived at the Laughter Yoga class, I found out the class wasn’t being held in the school’s auditorium, or even a typical classroom. Instead I was directed to a workout room full of treadmills and exercise mats. There weren’t even chairs to sit down in. I saw an old television in the corner, but all of the videos were exercise videos – not funny ones. I had the sudden urge to run away.
When the instructor arrived I could tell she was filled with a lot of positive energy. She began by explaining a bit about Laughter Yoga. She said our bodies can’t differentiate between real laughter and fake laughter. We receive the same physiological and psychological benefits from faking laughter as we would from genuine laughter. The instructor said studies have shown that laughter can actually improve our immune systems along with our mood and overall feeling of well-being.
The instructor started us off by having us stand in a circle and asked us to count off. If you were number four, you were supposed to call out “Pizza,” if you were number seven then you call out “Pasta.” This may seem like a simple get-to-know-you exercise, but to someone like me who is an anxiety-ridden introvert, it was actually increasing my stress levels to be put in the spotlight. What if I counted wrong? What if my voice cracked while shouting out my number? Where is the nearest exit?
The next exercise had us going around the circle taking turns. We were supposed to tell the group members the type and color of our vehicle and then slap our leg like it was the funniest thing we’ve ever said. I have to admit some people were very good at this and their laughter made me laugh. But it was still very awkward to have to “perform” when it got to my turn. I did okay, but my desire to run out of the class was still there. I had flashbacks of trying out for the college play only to find out I have absolutely no acting skills.
Another assignment was to talk on an imaginary cell phone while pretending like you are having the most hilarious conversation with the person on the other end. We were to all mingle around with our fellow yoga buddies who were laughing hysterically into their imaginary phones. I did the best I could with my awkward laughter, but I couldn’t help sneaking a peak at my watch to see if the class was almost over.
At the end of class the instructor taught us some wonderful yoga breathing exercises. I have used these exercises with much success whenever I need to calm myself down. Maybe I should have learned these exercises in the beginning of the class.
At last the class ended. I was the first one out the door.
So what was my overall impression of Laughter Yoga? I think Laughter Yoga can be a very beneficial therapy for the body and mind. The tough part is getting past the social awkwardness of being put on the spot and interacting with strangers. Laughter Yoga requires a sort of childlike response to situations which I found difficult to achieve. Perhaps if I had more classes to get used to the exercises, or had gone with friends I would have enjoyed the class more. I left the class thinking I would never take another Laughter Yoga class.
But a strange thing happened. The day after my Laughter Yoga class I felt the best I’ve felt in a long time. I smiled a lot, laughed at the little things in life and my stress levels were much improved. Perhaps it’s uptight people like me who need Laughter Yoga most of all.