As I pondered what to write about today for our blog I thought about the Bill Mahrer piece on YOUTUBE that a fellow yoga instructor sent me before the Academy Awards last night, which I was not able to access from remote (which is why I love it!) northern Maine, where I choose to have internet but not cable. Mahrer’s piece mentioned how all the nominated films this year were about suffering in a year where we have had so much suffering with COVID 19 and much more. My mind wandered to a few years back when I was invited to a LAUGHTER YOGA class in New York City, Well, yes, laughter yoga may seem a bit far removed from classical or even contemporary yoga, but certainly a sense of humor and laughter can help boost our immune system. If Norman Cousins can heal himself from a serious illness by watching funny films, then why not try laughter yoga? And maybe there isn’t any laughter yoga near you- nor is it particularly recommended as some people still socially distance and wear masks, even as many are getting vaccinated. However, thinking about what makes us smile and laugh may be just the medicine to get us through these, or any, challenging times.
If there is goat yoga and dog yoga, both which sound pretty fun and cool to me as the animal lover and activist that I am, then why not laughter yoga? You might ask what this is. Laughter yoga is approached this way- people walk around a room coming face to face with each other, walking around and passing each other, but not without first following the yoga teacher’s instruction to stop, look another person in the eyes, then create a belly laugh.
Even when you lay down to relax, the diaphragmatic release from laughter there can help your body to relax. Deep diaphragmatic breath is an important part of yoga practice. Since many adults are shallow breathers, which creates inner tension and anxiety, laughter yoga is a fabulous fun formula for getting your yoga breathing juices flowing! While it may seem artificial at first, the lovely release is worth the effort. A good cry can serve the same purpose; as a matter of fact, you may remember the time you laughed so hard you cried!! It’s all about the same thing- breathing deeply and cleansing the body physically, mentally and emotionally- that, after all, is one goal of yoga so we can live a more content peaceful life, even in the face of uncertainty, loss, change, fear, anger, depression or anxiety- all part of being alive.
Yesterday I heard a snippet of a piece on NPR about the medical field. They were reporting that empathy is missing in the medical field with the digital distractions of doctors filling in information on computers instead of connecting with patients- I only got 2 of the 7 things they were going to say are important to a patient feeling that they are truly cared for. The first one was eye contact, the second was watching the muscles, aka the expression, on a person’s face, Laughter yoga is a great way to make that connection with another human being, which, after all, is another tenet of yoga- We are all one. Connected and interconnected to plants, animals, all living beings- even trees- the universe, all of it! No laughter yoga available? No problem- just let out a few belly laughs on your own! See how it feels. Better yet, look yourself in the eyes in a mirror and enjoy seeing the muscles of your face explode in laughter, creating your own laughter yoga!~
Donna Sewall Davidge owns and operates Sewall House Yoga Retreat. She tries to have a good laugh every day, especially at herself!