Category Archives: happiness

What is #laughteryogawithJoe? What can it do for you?

 

Dr Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga, calls #laughteyogawithJoe ‘a pioneering approach’ to laughter yoga.

This #laughteryogawithJoe approach is the practice of joyfulness.

In Douglas Abrams recent book ‘The Book of Joy’ with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, reference is made to research by the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow. This suggests there are only four fundamental emotions of which one is positive – joy. (The other three are fear, anger and sadness).

This gives scientific validation, and not just an intuitive feeling, to the value of the practice of joyfulness.

#laughteryogawithJoe uses laughter yoga principles and techniques to achieve this. This approach uses laughter yoga creatively and expansively. It has the specific and articulated intention of welcoming, encouraging and supporting everybody’s unique abilities as they use laughter yoga on their path to joyfulness.

Because it follows principles, it is flexible approach rather than rigid one. It provides a framework, not a formula. It welcomes creativity and spontaneity. It allows, encourages and precipitates natural, spontaneous and joyful expressions of life – which include plenty of laughter.

‘A breath of fresh air in the laughter yoga world’ is how one Laughter Yoga Master Trainer described it recently.

Naturally, all emotions are welcome as sometimes there are tears too, tears of release. Laughing and crying are closely relatives on our emotional spectrum. Both have the effect of deepening our breath. As breathing exercises are central to yoga, even crying becomes yogic – but laughter yoga has much more laughing than crying.

The principles include:

  • embodiment,
  • breath, and
  • smiling.

In a joyful, expansive and playful environment, these principles lead inevitably and easily to natural, genuine spontaneous laughter.

 

Why? Because they bring us into the ‘Now’ in a good-natured, open-hearted, and embodied way (think: mindfulness). One result is connection, both with ourself and others. With gentle guiding and occasional ‘exercises’, this has the potential to blossom into into a freer, fuller, richer experience of being alive.

In other words, more joy.

I’d love to hear your own views and feelings and experiences. I always reply to comments here.

 

Read Dr Kataria’s full preface to ‘Laughter yoga and Happiness: 7 insights from 15 years of laughter yoga’  in the book here

More details on the #laughteryogawithJoe approach here

Book #laughteryogawithJoe for your next conference / event – details here

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Natural laughter yoga

 

I am not a fan of paper qualifications.

5 of the smartest people I’ve ever met were educational dunces. Also, I look at some of the leading figures in the world and observe that paper qualifications were not the prime cause of their success.

Additionally, a paper qualification is neither a measure nor guarantee of competence – I mean, do you see the way some people drive?!

The relevance of this to how I practise and teach laughter yoga is that I teach principles. I show people that when we understand laughter yoga principles, we can apply them anywhere and everywhere, all the time, individually and in groups, in any setting, anywhere in the world.

These principles make laughter yoga exercises fluid, spontaneous and natural.
They have the potential to make exercises invisible because when they are applied spotaneously, ‘in the moment’, laughter yoga exercises stop being formulaic and become flowing and natural. It can appear as if there are no exercises, and nothing is happening except the laughter.

Using the principles this way also encourages expansiveness and creativity. They expand formal exercises. For example, the last time I did ‘milkshake laugh’ with a group, it lasted about 10 minutes as everyone got creative, the exercise got funnier,  people laughed more & more naturally, they became even more creative and the exercise got funnier. The exercise just ‘worked’ better and better.

A key principle here is empowering the group.

Another aspect is that a course cannot teach understanding. A course can teach techniques but understanding comes from inside us.

Understanding does not require experience. It becomes easier with experience, but some people are natural ‘understanders’, ie they can observe one situation and easily transfer the principles to another. One facilitator I know learnt his group dynamic skills by observing performers at the first Isle of Wight pop festival!

We can all learn to be better ‘understanders’. The keys to this include open-minded observation, and the question children fortunately ask lots – ‘why?’

For me, the most important benefit of this approach is it allows people to use laughter yoga in any way imaginable. When you understand the principles, you can infuse them into whatever you do. This applies not just to obvious laughter yoga exercises, but to any wellbeing activity, and to any activity at all. One person is a life model who sits naked while being drawn, and who sits more comfortably and confidently because she imbues her sitting with inner laughter yoga.

So, principles, everyone?

I’d love to know your views, feelings & thoughts.

Learning the ‘natural’ approach to laughter yoga

‘Invisible’ exercises footage  (TY Dave Berman)

General information

‘Living more joyfully’ – 3 basic principles: an online course

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Laughter yoga, naturally.

 

Some of us in the laughter yoga community like to see how much we can do with how little.

How much genuine mirth and enjoyment can we induce?

How few exercises do we need?

How much can we use the group’s / individual’s expertise?

How effortless can we make the experience?

There is a path in laughter yoga which I and others sometimes walk where we like to be delicate, un-forced, genuine and natural.

This is a yoga approach because it focuses on the yogic aim of laughter yoga (union / reconnection / with self & others), and uses laughter yoga principles and exercises as a means of achieving these ends rather than as an end in themselves.
This means the role of the laughter exercises is to help access this state of reconnection / being present / union.

Those of us who like subtle love this approach.
I often observe with this ‘inside out’ approach that people have the experience of laughing lots even if they haven’t laughed their sides off. It feels to them that they have laughted their sides off because their laughter has come from a deep inner place – so they have had the double benefit of lots of laughter as well as yogic connection.

I was reminded of this today because I had a client who came to me because they said, among other things they wanted to laugh more and have more fun again in their life.

I inquired about what was happening in their life and it transpired that they were stressed and anxious, and in particular fed up with being fed up and not enjoying their life. It transpired what they were wanting was empowerment and natural genuine laughter as an expression of enjoyment in their life.
They wanted the joy they associated with laughter.

I duly took them through a process, part of which was to smile.

Three things then happened:

  1. They immediately laughed out loud – spontaneously, genunely, naturally
  2. They said they felt a sense of inner peace & contentment
  3. They said they felt ‘present’.

Any astute laughter yoga practitioner would have observed in the session that we used movement (‘motion creates emotion’), deep breathing (obviously) and smiling, in a flowing un-forced way – all of which induced genuine, natural, spontaneous self-induced laughter, and a sense of joyfulness.

A further benefit came afterwards. Before or during the session, they lost some jewellry that was extremely important to them. They were temporarily distracted by this until we re-focused.
After the session they resumed their slightly frantic hunt – and then they decided to use what we covered in the session, relaxed, smiled, became ‘present’ – and immediatley found it, in front of their nose where it had been all along.

Finding jewellry – yet another result for laughter yoga, naturally?

 

www.joehoare.co.uk

#laughteryogawithJoe

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Embodiment & unexpected pain relief in laughter yoga

 

We never know how someone will respond to a session and what benefits they will experience.

‘I don’t have my shoulder pain anymore!’

My approach to laughter yoga ( #laughteryogawithJoe ) usually starts with an extended gentle physical loosening up & embodiment session.

We do this as a fundamental part of the practice to be enjoyed and savoured, not as an introduction to be hurried through.

Sometimes the majority of the session is taken up with loosening, and therefore experiencing the body /mind connection of mind/body ‘medicine’.

My original intention behind this approach was to help participants experience relief from over-thinking, and potentially to help establish new neural pathways to trigger movement as an antidote. Freedom from over-thinking is a core stress-buster & mindfulness practice and so helps induce calm and inner peacefulness.

 

Key practice: move your body. Move your body gently. Focus on gentle movement for & with your shoulders.

 

At one such session for the Macmillan charity we did a longer-than-usual gentle loosening up and also a lot of gentle arm-swinging & shoulder-tension release.
Afterwards, one person came up to me and told me their shoulder pain had gone.
They told me they’d experienced this condition for many years, and yet after 30 minutes of this gentle laughter yoga loosening, the pain had gone. They had visited many specialists over the years, and yet what had released it for them was this very gentle extended loosening-up.

‘I don’t have my shoulder pain anymore’

She was astonished and delighted.

I was delighted and intrigued. I reckoned this must be a happy one-off.

 

‘My yoga and pilates give me a headache. This doesn’t.’

Last week at after a similar but shorter session, someone came up to me and told me that their yoga and pilates sessions are generally energetic with a lot of tensing and straining, and they always get a headache.
Our session had been gentle and releasing while still being very energetic, and they told me it was the first time they had exercised yogically without getting a headache.

‘My yoga and pilates give me a headache. This doesn’t.’

 

Advanced practice: move vigorously but gently, as gently as you can.

 

‘I woke up for 1st time without a clicky neck.’

Even more recently at the International Federation of Aromatherapists’ conference, someone made a point of commenting after the session how relaxed they felt.
The following day they reported their neck had stopped being clicky.

‘I woke up for the first time without a clicky neck.’

They, like me, were astonished and delighted.

 

Complete practice (short form): relax, breathe, smile, feel.

 

What can we learn from this?

Evidently, the path to inner peace brings unexpected, important and welcome benefits!

Although the ultimate aim of laughter yoga is ‘inner’ & ‘outer’ peace, there are many benefits to be experienced along the way.
Relief from pain is an enormous benefit. It automatically releases stress & tension, helps us be more ‘in the moment’ aka mindful, and therefore happier and more at peace.

The key is practice.

Read the book.

Take an online course

Train

Go on Retreat

Relax and enjoy. I’d love to hear any experiences you have had. And if you know anyone who might like to read this too, please share it?

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What can I expect on a laughter yoga retreat? part 1: LOVE

 

  1. Love.

A wise human once said: ‘Expect nothing’

‘Expect nothing’ means we approach situations open-mindedly and with curiosity. When we are both open-minded and open-hearted, this allows us to be present to what is – and allows magic to happen.

On every Retreat we go through a deepening process, of allowing layers to drop away, of stress and anxiety to ease, of allowing healing to happen, and of allowing love to expand – love for self and love for others.

In this spirit we grow, heal and connect.

Other people’s words are often best: ‘I had no expectations, I was curious but I came away lighter, freer and enriched by sharing the space with a quite remarkable group of very honest and open individuals.
I have struggled for a long time to express my emotions coherently and try to avoid the spotlight whenever possible but this weekend fostered a safe and nurturing environment.
It made me (and us all, I’m sure) feel stronger, more able to cope and much better equipped to be out in the big wide world and to share the light and laughter.’

‘To share the light and laughter’ – this is love, and being loving. We can all start practicing this now.

This is one quality we might experience on the Retreat .
Is this a quality you’d like to experience too?
(Harberton Village Hall, South Devon, 22-24th September: Booking & further details are here )
#laughteryogawithJoe
General info and videos available on www.joehoare.co.uk

 

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Laughter yoga: how playful movement heals

 

Movement heals – the body can heal the mind.
Laughter yoga is playful.
Playful movement can break old patterns.
Laughter yoga can break old patterns.

At least once on every course there is a instance where an embodiment, movement, dance and/or physical playfulness exercise ‘breaks’ a mindset and helps someone free themselves from an old pattern.

Every time, this exercise is spontaneous, ‘in the moment’, done specifically for that particular person, with the whole group taking part and therefore supporting this liberation process. Magic happens and there are usually tears – tears of relief, of alchemy, of frustration transformed into freedom.

This light-heartedness is liberating.

True spirituality means not taking ourselves too seriously: Deepak Chopra Click To Tweet

In a recent example, someone was terrorised by their rigid high standards. They had to do a presentation and were beating themselves up about it not being ‘good enough’, even though they had been given specific permission to experiment and allow their exercise to flow in its own easy natural way. They were furious and frustrated with themselves – so I got them to start ‘walking’ how they felt. We all joined in. We all trudged along with them (supportively). With minimal encouragement they then started shrugging it off (so we did too). We all ended up gambolling like spring lambs, and the self-rage and frustration had gone.

‘The dance you are talking about was absolutely great. It gave me a chance to express the emotion and got it out of my system. It was incredibly helpful. It also gave me the idea of doing this during (my own) walk-and-talk sessions as it is very cathartic.’

So not only was it helpful for them individually (and therefore for all of us too), but she is going to pass it down the line in her own work.

What can we learn from this? Various threads that stand out to me include;

  • be playful – be physically playful, whether you use laughter yoga or not
  • be spontaneous – learn to trust yourself to follow your instincts ‘in the moment’
  • in a ‘first do no harm way’, take risks. In the case above, I had no idea what would happen, I just knew playful movement would help.
  • allow emotion. Don’t be afraid of emotion, just remember to encourage everyone to breathe & relax.

What are your experiences?

Courses to learn laughter yoga

Webinars to develop exercises spontaneously

A 2-minute video compilation

The book ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’:
paperback
kindle

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Living passionately in ‘interesting times’ – how does laughter yoga help?

Do you remember the old Chinese curse: ‘may you live in interesting times’?
These times are with us now, so how can laughter yoga help?

I find three qualities are proving especially helpful – live passionately, take ourselves less seriously, and be more spontaneous & flexible 

  1. Live passionately.
    Laughter yoga uses laughter as a practice. It uses is as a yoga, to reconnect and harmonise.
    It energises.
    We breathe better. We oxygenate our blood. We improve our circulation. The net result is we feel energised. When we feel energised, we start to feel passionate.
    Whether done as alone or with others, it works.

‘Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you’. Oprah. Click To Tweet

Passion sustains us when we encounter difficulties. It is empowering. It builds our resilience and helps us keep going when problems arise, as they always do. A regular and daily laughter practice actively boosts our ability to live passionately.

Keep doing this and you will become energised, you will experience how your passion follows your energy, and consequently you feel in better control of our life – even in ‘interesting’ times.

A basic practice is: breathe in, pause, smile, and in a good-natured way, chuckle as you breathe out – pause, feel.
Repeat.

A basic practice is: breathe in, pause, smile, and in a good-natured way chuckle as you breathe out - pause, feel. Repeat. #laughteryogawithJoe Click To Tweet

  1. Take ourselves less seriously
    While it essential to take what we do seriously, especially nowadays, it is equally important not to take ourselves too seriously. When we take ourselves too seriously, our ‘message’ becomes ‘heavy’ rather than ‘light, and so we undermine it. This is particularly jarring in laughter yoga where the aim is to promote joyfulness, connection and open-heartedness (among other qualities).
    To start taking ourselves less seriously, practice laughing at yourself.
    A basic practice here is to look in a mirror, remind ourselves of all our foibles, point at ourselves, and have a good-natured chuckle. Learning to laugh at ourselves is liberating for others as well as ourselves.

  1. Let go & be more flexible.
    When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” John Maynard Keynes.

Changing our mind can be a tricky skill to master, yet it is essential if we want to be resilient, deal with stress well, and adapt properly as life changes around us. One easy way is regularly to ask ourselves ‘What if?’
It is a useful exercise to imagine circumstances being different, reversed, in a different order – just to see what insights occur to us, and therefore how we might do things differently.

‘Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival’ W. Edwards Deming Click To Tweet

When we feel energised and passionate, it is easier to start imagining the previously unimaginable without feeling too threatened. When we approach this reviewing process as a game and engage with it playfully, it becomes easier to be open-minded and consider new ideas and possibilities.

A quick and easy way to become more playful is to move around playfully. We become energised when we spend a few moments being physically active, and combining this with playfulness moves us quickly into an open-minded and creative space. If you’re not sure how to, think of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks?

The value of this flexibility, in combination with passion and playfulness, is it helps us adapt more easily as life changes, which is why laughter yoga is an effective tool for contemporary living – just keep practicing.

Useful links

www.joehoare.co.uk

Smiling is good for the heart

Laughter and mood change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why laughter yoga is good for your mental health

 

‘I feel better’

This is the most common reply I get to the question ‘how do you feel when you laugh?’, and the reason is because there’s magic in laughter.
When we laugh in an open and good-natured way, we are experiencing a moment of joy, of present-moment awareness, and quite possibly exuberance. In such a moment, we are enjoying our life, so we feel better.

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This experience is the antidote to stress, anxiety, worry and worse. Psychologically, it builds our resilience because feeling good is an empowering experience. ‘Feeling better’ feeds our resourcefulness and helps us deal better with life’s challenges. It improves our mental health, and gives us a more positive and optimistic outlook.

Be optimistic. It feels better. The Dalai Lama Click To Tweet

Fortunately, optimism is a quality we can all develop. Psychologically, we need to go through a process where we challenge our non-optimistic thoughts and feelings, and based on our own experience, replace them with more realistic and accurate ones. This is proven current psychological practice and at the heart of several approaches to improving mental health.

Laughter yoga helps these processes. There is a simple laughter yoga exercise which involves smiling. In this exercise, you smile a genuine and good-natured smile for 10-15 seconds, ideally at yourself in a mirror. Doing this usually requires a psychological shift because to keep your smile genuine (ie not false and insincere), you have to you take control of your mood and put it into a good-natured state. This is brain-training, and can be transformative.

‘What I have learnt …… is being able, at any moment, to choose to enter the state of having a genuine warm smile and that this has a transformative effect on me.  It is as if I have found the last piece of a jigsaw, which holds everything together, a magic key which enables me to access, without effort, those qualities that I have been ‘working’ towards.’

Laughter yoga is often thought of as a group activity, and it usually is. However, as with almost every other practice, it is one that can be on your own too. Learning to keep the practices going when on your own allows the benefits to deepen and grow.

‘On the first day I woke up with a headache with general cold symptoms and was reluctant to start. Even though I felt ridiculous, I still smiled and by the end was genuinely laughing; it was a great start to the day ……. It’s amazing how such a simple task can have a positive effect on your day.  By the end of the week I did feel slightly happier and found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier.’

So, even on our own we can use laughter yoga to improve our mental health.

However, laughter yoga is also a group activity. When we do our laughter yoga in a group, it builds connection. One of Dr Kataria’s great insights at the outset of laughter yoga was that when we connect with someone else while doing laughter yoga, we become more playful and spontaneous and therefore even more good-natured.

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Connection is an antidote to loneliness. Because loneliness is a major contributor to mental ill-health, the group activities of laughter yoga also help promote mental good health.

But there is much more to laughter yoga than just the psychological aspect. Laughter yoga is a mind-body / body-mind activity. It also uses physical activity and exercises to energise us, and to help us engage with our innate playfulness. The mind-body / body-mind quality helps activate the biochemical changes on several levels simultaneously, and these changes have been shown to have benefits that can last up to 24 hours. All we need do is keep topping up the benefits.

‘People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.’ Zig Ziglar Click To Tweet

I myself have used laughter yoga smiling exercises for years. I use them at the start of my day, every day. The most straight-forward benefit I have noticed is that morning grumpiness has been banished. I do the exercise until I feel my mood access a good-natured state of mind, and I feel that experience through my whole body. I do this exercise particularly when tired, sleep-deprived, ‘rough’ or under pressure because exactly as one my clients commented, I too have ‘found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier.’

Here is the exercise I do and recommend:

  1. As early as possible in your day, smile warmly and genuinely for at least 10-15 seconds. (This takes a small amount of focus and persistence.)
  2. Even better is to do this exercise in a mirror so you’re smiling at yourself. If you find this too difficult at first, just do the simple smiling. It’s the 10-15 second aspect that’s important.
  3. At the end of your day, repeat this exercise.
  4. Before going to sleep, write down 3 things you’ve appreciated and/or been grateful for today.
  5. During the week, please be on the lookout for signs that life might be going better. These signs can be easy to miss: an unexpected feeling of comfort; feeling more relaxed in a previously stressful situation; some enjoyment; thinking differently. However small, keep alert for these indicators that life is going better, and write them down.

I hope this simple laughter yoga exercise has the same benefit on your mental health as it has on mine and thousands of others.

Please ask if you have any questions.

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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3 profound benefits of laughter yoga

 

I love finding ways to explain things as simply as possible, and I reckon the benefits of laughter yoga can be described in 3 ways:

  1. You feel better
  2. You are better
  3. You do better.

You feel better. ‘I feel better’ is the most common reply I get when I ask people how they feel when they laugh.
‘Feeling better’ is at the heart of our human experience. It is perhaps the most important quality we can experience because when we feel ‘better’, life is ‘better’.

Feeling better, in a life-affirming and constructive way, can be achieved even in difficult circumstances. There are many stories of people who managed to laugh and feel better even in life-threatening ones.

‘Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit’ (Bernard Williams). Laughter yoga practices activate resilience by giving us the means to improve our mood and activate our zest for life at any moment we choose.

Life feels better with laughter yoga #laughteryogawithJoe Click To Tweet

 

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‘Vedant has really taken what you said on board and now everyone at our hospice is doing their 15 second smiles morning and evening.
The patients respond really well to such a simple device – it is lovely to see the effect it has.’

You are better. The list of health benefits gets longer every day. These benefits are physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.

In their simplest form, the benefits occur because laughter yoga is a pain-relieving and energising practice. Its wholesome, life-affirming qualities energise us if only because we have more oxygen in our system, and well oxygenated blood is a life-enhancer. The overall cardiovascular benefits underpin our ability to be healthy on many other levels.

‘Laughter is internal jogging’ (Norman Cousins)

Our tolerance threshold for physical pain increases as a result of laughter yoga and laughter generally. This benefit spills over to emotional and psychological pain. We benefit because we communicate and connect better with others, and when we replace isolation & loneliness with connection we experience a healthier, happier and longer life.
‘The smiling practice technique you teach has transformed my life and I rarely walk around with a growly face these days.’

We can all learn to laugh more, and we become measurably better.

You do better. Laughter yoga is a mindfulness activity, and consequently we experience the benefits of mindfulness even though we’ve accessed it in a different way. Among the many benefits of mindfulness, and hence laughter yoga, are the ability to prioritise better, think more clearly & calmly, experience less exhaustion and greater job satisfaction.

An additional benefit laughter yoga brings to our activities is energy.
‘Thank you for your contribution to our team meeting. Our goal to encompass stress relief, team building and fun was certainly achieved.’

Because of its core cardiovascular benefits, coupled with the mood enhancement, we have more energy to bring to our activities. This energising aspect inspires and enables us to do better.
‘By the end of the week I did feel slightly happier and found that any task I was going to do post exercise became easier. I was able to write up lecture notes quicker and found it helped clear my mind and thus, improved my cognitive ability.’

Whether practiced alone or with a group, these are some of the benefits of laughter yoga.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please share it. Thank you.

Further resources include:
Laughter Yoga with Joe

Laughter and pain

Action for Happiness

Choosing happiness

Benefits of laughter

Bristol laughter club 

Laughter Yoga

laughter-yoga

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Laughter yoga tips for effortless laughter

Effortless laughter.

It’s a vibe thing.
When you yourself feel it, you transmit it, effortlessly.
The knack is to feel it, genuinely & authentically, in your core.

‘It’, of course, is good-natured warmth. ‘It’ is also joyfulness.

It is also acceptance, the acceptance of our inner dark and light, of our sorrows as well as our joys. It is the ability to cry as well as laugh.

‘It’ takes practice. The practice is endless, but it gets better. Life becomes more joyful.
Is this a good reason to practice?

Laughter yoga is wonderful for this. There is a great practice, of laughing at oneself. The practice of being able to laugh through, at & with our ‘story’ is very profound. It is liberating because it puts us increasingly at ease with life and all it brings – the downs as well as the ups.
You practice laughing no matter what you’re feeling.
It is the equivalent of keeping breathing, no matter what you’re feeling. Just keep breathing.
After all, isn’t a laugh just a type of out-breath?

When we have learnt to laugh like this, people sense it. It allows them to laugh more easily, effortlessly even. This inner freedom, the freedom referred to by Marianne Williamson in her memorable Our deepest fear‘ quote, gives others permission to feel more expansively too. When this is done in a space that allows and encourages good-natured  connection, whether in a laughter yoga/wellness session or in fact any other session, effortless natural spontaneous laughter often occurs.
It usually occurs.
In fact, it almost invariably occurs.

If you run any kind of ‘laughter’ sessions, this is a very good skill to learn.

As a personal practice, it is extremely liberating.
It is another one of these ‘simple but not easy’ practices, and like all such practices, it is potentially life-changing in a good way.

The underlying reason for this effortless laughter involves being present and experiencing the joy that simply being alive can offer. When we are able to relax into the ‘now’, it is usually a joyful experience, and in this state, good-natured laughter easily and naturally bubbles up.
This applies as much as a personal practice as a group skill.

Are these good reasons to learn it?

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Useful links include:

group laughter skills (webinar)

group laughter skills (course)

personal practice (book)

general information

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