"Laughed more in an hour than we have in a year - don't think about it, just do it!"
"Brilliant! Didn't know I could laugh like that - love love loved it"
"Dissipates sadness and grief and puts you in an amazing place. I felt fantastic"
"So good to laugh and let go of everything. I recommend everyone to have a go!"
"I felt full of energy and really happy after my most recent session. Try it out!"
"One of the VERY BEST things you can do for yourself. Step into your very own delightfully playful YOU!
I hear this every time I run a laughter session in a yoga context like a teacher's studio, yoga retreat or festival. For me it is the best possible response, because it means we did yoga together and nobody noticed.
Like when your mum would sneak fresh vegetables into your meals, I got a bit of yoga goodness inside us without battling the whine of 'aww but mum, I don't like it!'
But is it yoga?
For me the answer is yes!
Let's start with the basics.
Laughter yoga has some of the hallmarks of yoga like postures and breathing exercises (known traditionally as 'asana' and 'pranayama') and fosters present moment mindfulness similar to meditation. It's very hard to dwell on the past or worry about the future while you're crying with laughter. So on 'tick box' level, I think laughter yoga qualifies as yoga.
But for me it goes further than that.
Yoga is an Indian Sanskrit word that translates as 'union' and also has connections to the Proto-IndoEuropean word 'yeug' meaning 'to join'. I take this to mean that yoga is primarily about getting beyond this perception of separation and re-join a connected sense of existence.
Let’s focus in on ‘union’, which according to Oxford English Dictionary is:
"the action or an instance of joining or uniting one thing to another or two or more things together, to form a single complete body or unit; the state of being so united"
The last time you were lost in music, didn’t that feel like you were part of a single complete body, that you were united with the vibration of sound and the vibration of others enjoying that sound?
And it's the same union I seek through laughter.
Many of us spend most of our lives operating from premise that 'I am me' and everything that is 'not me' is separate from my 'me-ness'.
It's like we're trapped inside a skin-clad container, absorbing experience through our senses and trying to make sense of it all.
Yet we know from physics at school that this is not reality and everything we can perceive, including our own being, is simply energy vibrating in differing ways. There is no disconnection except in the way we construct our internal sense of separation. Now I accept that it is convenient to think of our skin-clad container as separate as it helps get around the place without bumping into too many things. But what we gain in convenience we loose in our sense of reality. And anything that bursts the bubble of this illusory separation helps give a taste of union or yoga.
Laughter yoga is like the child who cries out that the Emperor's New Clothes don't exist and he is fact naked. As we share in unconditional laughter (or 'laughing for no reason') our 'me-ness' dissolves and for a brief point in space and time we feel connected - to ourselves, to each other and to everything.
The closest thing yoga seems to have to a purpose or destination is samadhi, a state of ecstasy where the 'self' is transcended and a profound connection to the divine is realised. It is described as a state of bliss and being at one with the universe.
As people wipe the tears of joy from their eyes or massage their cheek muscles after laughter yoga, it's clear to me that whilst we may not have achieved samadhi, I feel certain we've had a glimpse of it.
Find out more about the laughter yoga I trained in and laughter clubs here laughteryoga.org.
If you'd like me laughter yoga in your community or event, please email me.