While many people hoped this year would be better than the last, 2017 has proved to be one big dumpster fire. Let's face it, we could all use a relaxing yoga class and some laughter. And now, there's a class that brings the two together. Laughter yoga is the new exercise trend that helps your body find the funny even when you mind doesn't feel like there's anything to joke about.
"It’s not like traditional yoga, meaning there’s no holding poses, sitting on mats, or even workout clothes," Debra Kaszubski wrote for the Oakland Press. "The only thing participants hold is laughter." There is no required uniform for a belly-busting laugh fest. At the risk of alienating chaturanga devotees, this is a form of yoga I can totally get behind because.
As chronic pain suffer, yoga actually causes me more pain, not less, as some people experience. However, this laughing thing is something me and my brother used to do all of the time growing up. Who knew it would one day spread across the world to bring millions of people joy? Our childhood was far from ideal, and when the pressure was too much we would often challenge each other to fake laugh until the laughter became real. This is the basic concept behind laughter yoga.
Laugh Your Way To Enlightenment
According to Laughter Online University, laughter yoga, also known as internal jogging, was created in India in the '90s, and it's showing up in the U.S. just when you thought you might be done laughing forever. "Its core premise is that your body can and knows how to laugh, regardless of what your mind has to say. Because it follows a body-mind approach to laughter, participants do not need to have a sense of humor, know jokes, or even be happy," Laughter Online University explained on its website. "Laughing is an easy way to strengthen all immune functions, bring more oxygen to the body and brain, foster positive feelings and improve interpersonal skills." Honestly, the last time I laughed out loud uncontrollably was while watching the Netflix satire Friends From College. Before that, I don't remember the last time I spontaneously laughed. Um, yeah, so I really need this laughter yoga.
If this is really just forced laughing, then why is it called yoga? The answer is in the breathing, and because the definition of yoga is actually more broad than you think. "The word Yoga arises from the Sanskrit root 'Yuj,' which means to get hold of, integrate, and harmonize," Laughter Online University explained. "It means integrating all aspects of life, harmonizing our bodies with our minds, spirits, and society."
Laughter yoga uses similar breathing techniques as other forms of yoga, like pranayama breathing practiced by Hillary Clinton, in between bouts of laughter in order to further relax the body and mind. And, as I've written before, laughing your ass off is actually really good for your physical and mental health because it increases endorphins and helps maintain dopamine activity, which is what gives you all of those happy feels.
By combining laughter with proper breathing techniques, laughter yogis can learn to live in the present moment — something that feels impossible in today's digital wasteland. "When your body and mind are relaxed you start becoming more aware of the present," Laughter Online University noted. "The ability to fully live and experience the 'now' is of utmost importance because it is the only moment where we can experience happiness. Being in the now frees us from the regrets of the past and the anxieties of the future and enables us to enjoy simply being."
The trend is also spawning a new career path for people who want to dedicate their lives to helping others find the funny. Yes, it's true — you can now become a teacher of laughter. This sounds kind of like being a comedian, but without the years of rejection and self loathing. Or a clown, sans the terrible clothes and makeup, and the very real risk instilling fear in the hearts of anyone who's every seen It or American Horror Story: Cult, both which feature killer clowns.
If you want to know where to get your giggle on, you can laugh online, or search the interwebs for laughter yoga classes near you. If no one is laughing in your neighborhood, there are tons of laughter yoga YouTube videos. You can also host a laughter yoga party, invite your friends, and all fake laugh together, which makes it seem less weird. If it all feels too awkward, you can actually make yourself by marathoning Friends From College, but you're going to miss out on all those mindfulness benefits, which is why you should at least try out the real thing.