The Coping Kete

Monthly Archives: May 2015

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No. 161: Laughter Yoga

This week, to attain, maintain or regain your sense of wellbeing…

… practice laughter yoga for just a moment every day.

Laughter yoga is the practice of deliberate, voluntary laughter. The idea is that forced laughter soon turns into real laughter and has the same benefits for body, mind and mood that spontaneous laughter does. Laughing on purpose can help us learn how to create laughter from the inside and how to use laughter to shift our moods, rather than waiting for our moods to shift before we can laugh. Laughter yoga is usually practiced in groups. We get the most benefit if we can laugh vigorously for 20-30 minutes, according to Laughter Yoga Aotearoa New Zealand. Natural laughter usually comes in bursts and this why practicing in groups can help. But there’s no reason why we can’t also practice laughter yoga alone, using a few simple exercises to get us started.

This week experiment with what happens if you schedule some time to practice laughing for no reason, without needing something ‘out there’ to give you a reason. It might help to start with just a few minutes and build up to 5 or 10 or even more. You might want to warn the people you live with to expect to hear some loud laughter coming from your room for a while – they might even want to join you and that can make it even more silly and fun.Laughter yoga is something that can wake your body up, so best not to schedule your practice time right before bed, unless you find that it tends to make you feel relaxed and tired afterwards. Test it out first. It will probably feel strange to do this at first, but that’s okay. This week, give yourself permission to be silly for a brief time each day.

Here are some simple Laughter Yoga exercises that involve forced, extending laughing.

  1. Take a Laughter Drink
    • Standing up straight, feet hip-width apart, raise one hand in front of you as if holding an imaginary (and bottomless) cup full of laughter.  Take a deep breath into the bottom of your belly then ‘pour’ the laughter into your mouth as you breathe out and force yourself to fake laugh until the cup is empty. Repeat this for ten breaths in and ten breaths out, trying to laugh for a little bit longer each time you breathe out.
    • You can also imagine the cup is full of different kinds of laughter. The light, giggling laughter is floating on the top, the deepest belly laughter is sitting on bottom. Start with light tee-hees and move through the whole range of laughs until you get to the loudest, deepest ha-ha-has. With each cycle of breaths, try to laugh for a little bit longer.
  2. Laughter Balloons
    • Stand with your back straight and feet hip-width apart, place both palms flat on your belly and imagine you are holding a giant, empty balloon against your stomach. This time, on your first in-breath laughter will fill the balloon as you breathe down into your belly and stretch your arms out in a circle in front of you. Then slowly release the laughter out of the balloon on the out-breath, laughing out loud until the balloon is emptied and your palms are once again flat on your belly. Repeat five to ten times, aiming to laugh for longer each time.
  3. Laughter Hand-Ball
    • Standing with your back straight and your feet hip-width apart, facing a wall, pretend you have a laughter ball in your hands. Take a deep breath in and on the out-breath, ‘throw’ the ball at the wall with a burst of laughter, and ‘catch’ the ball when it bounces back with another burst of laughter. The louder your laugh, the faster the ball will travel. Experiment with a different kind of laughter each time.
  4. Laughter Body Fill
    • Standing with your back straight and feet firmly grounded on the floor, this time, laughter will fill your body. Imagine each in-breath fills a different part of your body with the energy to laugh. On each out-breath laugh out loud from that part of your body, whatever that means to you, starting with your toes, and moving up through your legs, stomach, chest, shoulders, nose and the top of your head.

If you work up to spending five minutes on each exercise, eventually you will be doing 20 minutes of yoga laughter a day. As you move through the week, observe how this affects your body and moods. Test out different ways to adapt the exercises to suit.

Once you are comfortable using yoga laughter at an everyday kind of time, add it to your Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. Doing some laughter yoga could allow you to take a break from my distressing thoughts, shift your body’s physical stress responses and help release some of your brain’s happy chemicals.