Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Laughter Yoga

Someone in our neighborhood just got a new trombone and is blowing it like a depressed elephant.

When I first heard it, I thought there’d been an outbreak from the zoo. Then, the more I listened, the more I could discern the great effort behind the bellowing.

It’s mostly in the afternoons. When it starts, I visualize some kid losing a lung in a rented and dented piece of brass. So far, there’s no real tune evolving, just a series of toots and hoots in the key of confusion.

One person’s ear pollution, another’s joyful noise?

Laughing, to me, is one of the genuinely joyful sounds we share, so last weekend when a friend invited me to join her in a Laughter Yoga class, I decided to give it a try.

After all, Readers’ Digest has expounded for years that Laughter Is the Best Medicine. It seems there’s some truth to it after all. Per the Laughter Yoga International web site:
"Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughter with Yogic breathing or pranayama (breath control)…. 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."
At the onset, our leader explained the breathing techniques and informed us of the physical benefits of laughter on the body: increasing oxygen in the blood and endorphin activity, lowering blood pressure, and generally reducing stress while boosting well being.

You have to be pretty gung ho-ho-ho to get down and giggly with a group of strangers, especially in the belly laugh pose, where you lie head-to-tummy like a folded gum wrapper chain while everyone belts out a hearty laugh. Who knew you could get this much bouncing without a stack of quarters in a cheap motel room?

It felt silly and odd, for sure, but the breathing exercises were deep and clarifying. The good vibrations seem to melt away the muck and help you put things in perspective, just like a double-up guffaw with a close friend after you’ve been too stressed over the small stuff. It’s the lightness of laughter that lifts us and gives us the energy to keep going.

Have you laughed today? What incited your last great belly laugh? With whom did you share it?

I’m thinking our budding trombonist's parents could use a little Laughter Yoga before they employ a little forced pranayama on their prodigy.