Ho Ho Ho! YOGADOO founder and teacher, Lucy Aston (and eight year old son, Freddie) got a fit of the giggles in the name of Yoga at WOMAD Festival at the weekend when they tried 'Laughing Yoga' for the very first time!
The free Laughing Yoga sessions, run by the Cornwall Laughter Club and the aptly named 'Curly Steve' took place in the Arboretum at WOMAD each day - and by the start of the session there was a healthy gathering of wannabe laughers ready to be wooed.
Steve immediately got people chuckling with his infectious cackle, and sure enough we all found ourselves laughing for no reason at nothing in particular - which is exactly the idea! When it comes to laughter yoga, faking it ‘til you make it' is just fine.
We clapped, we started imaginary speedboats, we shook hands with strangers and laughed in their face by means of an introduction and in between each set, we walked around clapping and chanting, “Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha!”
I was completely on-board from the off, and within moments found I was really laughing and it felt good! Not only that, the sheer joy you feel from being surrounded by so much laughter and happy people is really quite beautiful. I looked at my eight year old son Freddie during the session, who was laughing and smiling along with the rest - but at one point he frowned and shrugged his shoulders as if to say 'What is going on?' and then mouthed at me 'Is he drunk?' which made me laugh even more.
Laughing Yoga was started in India back in the mid-1990s by Indian physician Madan Kataria who set out that the goal of laughter yoga is to breathe and to laugh, not because anyone has cracked a joke, but because laughter is a playful, social, contagious thing. The “yoga” label is a bit of a misnomer. There are no downward dogs, just people coming together, usually for free, for a short session of laughter. And it has become something of a global phenomenon.
I think my 'Laughter Yoga' experience was helped by the fact everyone there was so-into-it, many had attended the sessions at WOMAD year-after-year and it made me feel more comfortable about laughing, too — even though in any other circumstance, I would’ve surely felt self-conscious about just laughing for a half-hour straight.
When I am teaching YOGADOO classes, I place a great deal of emphasis on the breathing or Prana element of Yoga as well as the physical stretching of poses, so in that respect I felt energised and revitalised at the end of the Laughter Yoga session.
And for all of the promise of laughter’s health benefits, many not yet scientifically proven, that may be the method’s greatest strength. Laughter feels good while we do it, isn’t that enough?