Category Archives: mindfulness

What’s Joy got to do with it?

 

Joy: a sense of elation and ‘deep abiding’, a much deeper experience than happiness.
Is this important to you?
How can you activate yours?
How can you maintain it?

Joy energises our life and gives us a sense of purpose. It is important for its own sake but also because it activates qualities like acceptance, peace and connection, as well as resilience and presence of mind.
It has the potential to give us ‘lasting happiness in a changing world’.

In Integrative Medicine, joy is a recognised promoter of health and wellbeing.
Psychology shows how it contributes to our mental health.
In cancer care it is recognised as life-affirming.
In business, it is valued for its resilience and mindfulness qualities.

In brief, joy is recognised as an important contributor to a healthy, happy and fufilled life.
(‘The Joy Conference‘, Bristol 26th October, combines all these threads, and more.)

Laughter yoga can activate joy. It can be used to focus on joyfulness, and an excellent way to achieve this is to practice celebrating, especially celebrating being alive. The sense of elation and aliveness that accompanies this celebration automatically activates our sense of joy.

Simple celebration steps include smiling and laughter.
The practice of smiling is now a well recognised method of improving our mood. There have been many studies that demonstrate this beyond all doubt, including those done by Professor Frach and associates in 1988 with the pencil in the teeth study.
So, step 1 is to practice smiling more.

Self-initiated laughter is another good step. Children constantly laugh like this, just because. Adults can learn how to to do this again, particularly when using laughter as yoga. Although laughter yoga can be a group activity (which taps into the contagiousness of laughter), it is also a solo activity – laughing, just because. When we use this yogic approach, we learn to experience all the benefits of laughter whenever we choose.

A third step is to experience how we embody this.
The studies into body-mind communication show how we can alter our mood and mindset through embodiment and posture. We can celebrate more by adopting a celebrating posture.

The combined effect of these simple steps includes activating our joyfulness and bringing all its benefits into our life.

Further information

The Joy Conference 26th October, Bristol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is more information about Laughter yoga 

 

 

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Laughter yoga and moving mindfulness – joy in the present moment

 

Laughter yoga overlaps with mindfulness.
It also overlaps with embodiment.
Movement and embodiment are natural partners.
Together, they create a joy-filled combination for present-moment awareness.

 

 

 

Laughter practices can bring our attention instantly into the ‘Now’.
When we are laughing heartily, time shrinks or expands (take your pick), so that the only thing we are aware of is the present moment.

Therefore when used in this way, laughter practices are an excellent route into mindful awareness.

Movement and embodied awareness have the potential immediatly to end overthinking. When these are approached with inner awareness, and therefore the movement & sense of embodiment  come from within, attention immediately moves away from our thoughts. Our attention doesn’t just move into our body but it also moves into the present moment.
This is a different experience from merely being aware of our thoughts.

Another insight from laughter (and other psychological) practices is the effect of the smile. It has been established many times how the effect of a smile lifts our mood. It is a natural stress-buster and mood-lifter. It is the sister to the William James observation ‘We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh’.

When we explore smiling practices, and in particular the feel of the inner smile, and combine this with embodiment and present-moment awareness, our ‘Now’ immediately feels different. Although the ‘Now’ is inherently joyful, when we add in smiling and laughter practices their combined effect enhances present-moment awareness surprisingly vividly.
With practice, these three aspects support each other like a three-legged stool.

One delightful aspect of this is that it doesn’t require an additional time commitment. We don’t have to sit for 20 minutes, three times a day, seven days a week, and learn a new practice.
All we need to is become aware, and add smiling, laughter and embodiment practices into how we already live our life.

Practice makes perfect.

It also makes joyful.

Information on the next session is here

Would you like the Move / Breathe / Smile video?
Email me joe @ joehoare . co . uk for your free copy

For more information, please visit www.joehoare.co.uk

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Does joy have practical benefits? Is laughter yoga relevant?

 

The short answer to both questions is, of course: yes.

The effects of joy and joyfulness include helping us live a healthier, happier, more engaged and more productive life. They are an antidote to the modern epidemics of anxiety, depression, isolation or disconnection.

The science behind this gets stronger every day. “Humans do seem to be genuinely unified by laughter.” says Professor Sophie Scott of University College London.

We probably need no other reason for laughter yoga than this sense of connecting with fellow humans in a warm, peace-inducing, good-natured way.

However, the benefits continue.

“Laughter……. spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.”says Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks. These psychological benefits have been documented in positive psychology studies for some time (in ‘Authentic Happiness’, by Dr Martin Seligman, for instance), so the factual basis for more laughter in our life is solid.

How can we achieve this?

As part of the wellness and mindfulness waves that are, happily, spreading inexorably through modern life, there is a special role for laughter yoga.
Laughter yoga treats laughter as a yoga because, as is increasingly well known, the benefits come from the act of laughter itself, not through jokes or humour or funny. A happy spin-off happens to be that life becomes funnier and more humourous but the intention is to access all the benefits from the act of laughter itself – for the reasons covered in the articles below.

Laughter yoga is an adaptable activity. It works as effectively in teams & conferences as in classes, or on your own. It works seated or standing, for all ages and cultures. It can be used in any and all circumstances.

As there are so many benefits from laughter yoga, isn’t it time to explore its potential in your own life?
Learn more here:

Courses

Conferences / teams

Online

CNN – The science behind laughter yoga

The benefits of laughter in the office

Do you want the free 7-minute Relax/Breathe/Smile/Feel meditation?
Contact me joe @ joehoare.co.uk with ‘Meditation please’ in the subject line

 

 

 

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‘Feeling alive’ with laughter yoga and moving mindfulness

 

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. … I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive…….so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Joseph Campbell.

How do laughter yoga and moving mindfulness help us feel alive?

One of the many effects of laughter yoga is to alter time, to expand the ‘Now’.

When we laugh heartily, time disintegrates and the present moment expands. We become wholly involved in the moment, in the act of laughter itself. All our attention is engaged in this almost overwhelming activity and we enter an altered state of consciousness – the ‘Now’.

When we live in the ‘Now’ as opposed to in the past or the future, we enter a state that is timeless and inherently joyful.
When our attention and awareness are focused in the current moment rather than in our thoughts, memories and anxieties, we find the ‘Now’ is expansive and liberating state of being, and this can affect us profoundly.

‘I must agree that the session for the “Wild And Well” weekend was one of the best out of the whole course.
It made myself and my colleague so very happy for the whole day, and a for quite while afterwards…….Who would have thought such love, energy and happiness could come from one hour.’

Over the years I have found that mindful movement and embodiment can rapidly precipitate this.

I have found the simple formula of moving, breathing and smiling, when adjusted appropriately, works with every group in every situation. It has worked with ‘grieving’ groups, with special needs children, and with hospice volunteers. When this approach is suitably framed, it allows and encourages effortless, good-natured, appropriate light-heartedness & playfulness. This always manifests as joyful, natural, genuine, spontaneous laughter.

When this form of laughter yoga is combined with mindful movement and aware, conscious embodiment, our ‘Now’ expands in what is sometimes an intensely ‘alive’ experience.

‘That hour session was honestly one of the most uplifting things i have ever experienced.’

This hybrid approach uses the best of mindfulness and the best of laughter yoga. It works because they reinforce each other. It is the combination of the ‘lightness’ of laughter yoga with the ‘awareness’ of mindfulness that produces this experience of being intensely and joyfully alive.

One quality about this practice is its simplicity. Jon Kabat-Zinn described mindfulness as ‘simple but not easy’.
This combination of laughter yoga and mindful movement is simple. It is best done in the easiest and simplest way you can. There is nothing to learn.

You simply start consciously moving, breathing and smiling, and feeling how this affects you.

The benefits start immediately.

The more you do this, the more you build muscle memory and, through neuro-plasticity, wire this into your consciousness.

The more you practice, the longer the benefits last.

I hope you develop and enjoy your own practice.

Upcoming course, 1st December, Bristol (UK)

Online course

General information

 

 

 

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

 

Dr Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga, calls #laughteryogawithJoe ‘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 and emotional catharsis

 

All emotions are welcome in my laughter yoga sessions. Even when I don’t specifically articulate this, it remains true.

Sometimes, partly as a result of this emotional freedom, personal breakthroughs occur.

Sometimes a natural joyfulness gets activated and a sense of wellbeing and unique personal identity breaks through. When this happens, the person has felt something they have never felt before, they recognise on a profound level this experience is important to them, and that from now on, their life is different –  including less stress & anxiety and more joy & happiness.

This is a ‘death of the ego’ moment, aka emotional catharsis.

This ‘death’ is the shedding of a skin because they have been touched sufficiently deeply, at that right moment in their life, that they emerge from the session a changed person.
They are transformed, but to experience that transformation, part of them has to ‘die’, and this is an emotional moment for them, with or without tears.

Two typical responses I have had from people are:

  • I kept giggling forthe rest of the day – joyfulness/happiness
  • I felt ‘present’ for the first time in my life – mindfulness/present-moment awareness

It is an honour, a privilege and a responsibility to be present at and help initiate this personal alchemy.

Two recent experiences struck me forcefully because they were so similar they were almost identical.

One happened on a 2-day course, the other in a 1.5 hour session. In both cases, as the particular individuals were recounting their experience and how they had been changed by it, all emotions, from pain and sorrow through to joy and delight, fleetingly crossed their face.

In the space of probably less than 2 seconds, this intense microcosm of emotion was clearly if fleetingly expressed as they completed their personal alchemy.

They had both made this breakthrough step without going into emotional meltdown, and yet strong emotion was being expressed.

Among other things, it is good for all practitioners to be comfortable in the presence of strong emotion.

I find it good simply to give it space and ‘hold’ it (be fully present with it) so that it can be experienced with self-responsibility. This allows the personal alchemy to occur (and is how it was in my own personal transformation moment.)

It is a wonderful thing to experience, and a wonderful gift to help birth, is it not?

Do you have any experiences to share?

Would you like a 2-minute video with 3 basic Move / Breathe / Smile exercises? Email me joe@joehoare.co.uk for your free copy.

Here is more info on

www.joehoare.co.uk

 

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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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The ‘perfect’ laughter yoga exercise: what I learnt as a lumberjack

 

I learnt many skills in my previous career as a lumberjack.

One that has served me well is listening – not to the hinge cracking, nor the tree falling, but to people.
An important part in my lumberjack career was sales and I learnt that if you listen, or rather when we listen, we hear all the person’s under-currents, assumptions, preferences and particularities.
This type of listening, when we feel the nuances of the communication, is a great skill to master – if we ever can.

Its practical application in laughter yoga is been enormous.

It is a subtle skill to feel the nuances in a group – and helpful when we are looking for perfect pitch, so to speak, pitching the ‘perfect’ exercise, ie the perfect exercise for that moment.

It is a common practice to have a set, pre-planned repertoire, and it is essential to set the correct intention and to do proper preparation and planning. However, it is important to be able to vary our plan.

Sometimes this is forced on us by ‘circumstances’, other times there is a subtle invitation, if we know how to listen. Sometimes someone from the group makes a comment or observation, or behaves or interacts or moves in a particular way that lends itself to becoming a ‘perfect’ exercise. When we turn this moment into a warm, generous and inclusive exercise, it can be perfect.

It can certainly be ‘perfect’.

On one occasion, out of the group emerged a hokey cokey. In the context of the workshop it was about as tangential and off-the-wall as you can imagine – but everyone loved it. One person came up to me afterwards and used the words: ‘it was just perfect!’
The reason it was perfect was because it ‘caught’ the moment, it was spontaneous, inclusive and engaging, it was inviting, playful and fun, everyone found their own enjoyment in it, and everyone found it rewarding. This is my definition of a ‘perfect’ exercise.

In my own personal and professional journey I experienced many similar delights. I found the ‘working with what is’ approach in Kindling Point exceptionally useful as it fosters the ability to allow ideas and material to emerge from within the group.
Our skill in the laughter yoga / laughter therapy / laughter wellness / laughology / laughter facilitation arena is then to turn this into a ‘perfect’ exercise.

When we embrace this, sessions become richer, more rewarding, more effective, more engaging, more life-enhancing.

We can all learn this skill.

How to create ‘perfect’ exercises

Laughter Facilitation Skills

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