Oprah, Sandra, Angelina and even Gwyneth love it. Maybe it’s the secret to conscious uncoupling? Who knows? What we do know is that a workout requiring minimal effort, that reduces the hormones responsible for stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure and fills you with optimism, sounds like the Holy Grail. Leave your co-ordination and skill, along with your Nikes and Lululemons at home – we’re sold on Laughter Yoga.
Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian medical doctor, developed laughter Yoga nineteen years ago. Dr. Kataria was interested in the science behind laughter as medicine and began to prescribe it to his patients to improve their wellbeing. What started in a public park in Mumbai in 1995 is now practiced globally. Sharyn Cunneen, co-director of Laughter Yoga Dublin, teaches the elemental exercise with a difference in the capital. A walking advertisement for the pursuit, her contented spirit radiates happiness from within; she has the most genuine perma-smile we’ve seen.
The belly laughs don’t come straight away. Expect to smile, giggle and pant your way through the first few minutes of class. This leads to uproarious whoops and side splitting fun through a series of exercises and techniques, with suitably amusing names such as ‘I know what you’ve been up to’ laughter, ‘see saw’ laughter and ‘walk in the dark’ laughter. You’ll cycle an imaginary bike and ring your smile bell (cue laugh) as you glide past group members. Inhibitions are left at the door; your work/life roles and responsibilities stay there too. By doing this, each participant comes to the activity at the same level; everyone is equal and a few feet out of their comfort zone. Even if you don’t feel particularly happy at the time, go with it. “Fake it ‘til you make it” sits just right. As the body cannot distinguish between forced and genuine laughter you reap the mental and physical benefits you would if you were reminiscing good times with friends, at a comedy show or pouring over an amusing book. It becomes effortless quite quickly; reverting to a playground mentality feels like a holiday from the restrictions of daily life.
Rounding off the session with a relaxing laughter meditation, we can honestly say our mind is clearer, the fog behind our eyes has lifted and we’re definitely happier. This gentle, playful exercise gets our vote.
Our thanks to the Westin Dublin where we enjoyed Laughter Yoga to launch their Well-Being Movement.
Michelle O’Brien @leche_vitrines