Category Archives: mindfulness

What does laughter yoga add to mindfulness?

 

The short answer is lots.

Time and again, the feedback from participants after experiencing a session is they’ve never felt so present, so quickly.
It is extremely common for physical symptoms like headaches to disappear, for stress levels to drop, for energy levels to rise, for awareness to expand and consequently for people to experience an unexpected calm and serenity, all within fifteen or twenty minutes.

Whether the session is titled ‘Mindfulness’, ‘Gentle Laughing Mindfulness’ or simply ‘laughter yoga with Joe’, the core activities are the same. There are specific facial exercises combined with embodiment, breathing, moving, feeling, connecting. The delivery is light-hearted, flexible and spontaneous with ‘space to learn’ so participants can be aware of their own processes. This is an important aspect.
The cumulative effect is to activate people’s zest for life.

Why does this work?
The immediate answer is because it gets participants out of their heads.
Very quickly indeed it breaks them free of their endless thinking cycle. It moves their awareness into their fuller consciousness – their body, their breathing and their overall connection with self and others. When this is done as a repeating, deepening pattern, it becomes an endlessly beneficial practice.

A subtler answer is it works because of the difference between being aware and being aware with a smile. This is like the difference between a passive, observational meditation and a proactive, dynamic one. Both ‘work’, and both have their place.

The smile gives the experience a particular dynamic.

How long do the benefits last?
As with mindfulness itself, the more it is practiced, the better it ‘works’. Again, it is simple but not easy. The strong incentive is that even experienced practitioners feel so good so quickly.

What’s the best way to start?
Smile. Feel the smile. Be aware of the internal quality of the smile. Smile with your whole being, and be alert for any differences in how you feel and how others behave and react.

It might be the most enjoyable practice you ever do.

Do it now?

zest for life

laughter yoga with Joe

Smiling & embodiment practices

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Laughter wellness: what is it and why does it work?

 

At last.

‘Now we are 8’, 8 years into the Great Recession, one ever-pressing question is: what works? The harder the times, the more pressing this question.

Three of the threads proving their effectiveness are:

  • Mindfulness: present-moment awareness, encouraging emotionally intelligent and self-responsible behaviour
  • Positive Psychology: the impact of positivity on emotions, happiness and effectiveness
  • Wellness: overturns stress, anxiety & depression, and promotes connection and resilience.

In the ‘Wellness’ picture, the role of ‘laughter wellness’ has its place because it is upbeat & energising, simple & effective, and fast.

It combines wellness activities with enjoyment. The result is calmness, connection and resilience which manifests in happier productivity.

BNP (Banque National de Paris), among others, used ‘zest for life’ recently.
We moved around the space, walked at different tempos, internalised & isolated ourselves, communicated & connected with each other, and kept expanding our awareness – all in a framework of good-natured exploration.

Apprehensive, heady, pressured individuals turned up and surprised, relaxed, energised & connected individuals left.

The surprise was because of how little we did and how well it worked. We moved, we breathed, we kept expanding our connection. We all felt well, no matter how we were feeling at the start of the session.

The moral? Laughter yoga in the form of ‘Laughter wellness’ has the magic combination of simplicity, enjoyment and effectiveness.

It works.

Time to take laughter wellness seriously?

Laughter yoga, laughter wellness and ‘zest for life’

Huff Post laughter yoga

10 minute session video

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What can I expect on a laughter yoga retreat?

 

‘Laughter yoga with Joe’ is about the journey back to joyfulness. We are all wherever we are on our own life curve, dealing with whatever we’re dealing with, experiencing whatever we’re experiencing.
Wherever we are is the perfect platform for our next step – and all we can ever do is take the next step, one at a time?

What if we can do this with lightness, joyfully? With zest for life?

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Strategically, spiritually, on a soul level we have a yearning to return home. Inside us, that warm, loving, kind part of us yearns to connect, to reach out and communicate warmly with our fellow humans and beyond. So often our history, our ‘story’, gets in our way and hampers us. Sometimes we’re afraid, afraid of our ‘shadow’ or just afraid.
What if we can just march straight through our ‘story’, enjoying the journey and so focused on the joyfulness that it provides us with the energy to become more joyful ourselves?

How can we do this? The secret lies in the present, experiencing the NOW.
Start here & now by dropping your shoulders, taking a deep breath, putting a small warm genuine smile on your face, and breathing out slowly while keeping that genuine smile alive.

‘Laughter yoga with Joe’ is a very NOW experience in which we use all the resources we have, often discovering we have many more than we previously realised.

On a Retreat, we laugh, sing, dance and play. We explore lightness and joyfulness. We breathe & relax, and are quiet & calm.
We have space and permission to be free and spontaneous. In a safe and permissive space, we allow and welcome all emotion.

In this warm, generous and spacious way we practice being present, in the NOW. This is where the magic happens.

Resources:
www.joehoare.co.uk

www.bristollaughterclub.com

Hawkwood College laughter yoga retreat

 

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Laughter Yoga: time to start laughing with, not at?

 

There was a time not long ago when a client of mine was appalled at the possibility of yoga being taught as a stress management technique.

How times have changed.

Nowadays everyone knows about it, lots of us have tried it, and some of us use it regularly. The benefits from its breathing and stretching are so well established that it has moved from being sneered at to being welcomed.

Is this now the case with laughter yoga / yogic laughter?

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As we move into an era where personal, professional and environmental wellbeing are recognized as both essential & intertwined, the answer looks increasingly ‘yes’.

As with mindfulness, the benefits of yogic laughter include enhanced wellbeing (‘happiness’), reduction in stress, anxiety and depression, and improved resilience.
These benefits are also attainable through positive psychology and the likes of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and as research is starting to show, through yogic laughter practices as well.

Even the Pentagon has had happiness seminars.

These benefits impact our professional life as well as our personal life. Evidence is accumulating fast to show how we think more clearly, more creatively and for longer when we are in a positive mood.
Yogic laughter practices create this positive mood instantaneously.

The environmental aspect is becoming appreciated because in this arena too, health-inducing inner practices contribute to practical effectiveness. Leading figures and pioneers like Satish Kumar of Resurgence and Sir Julian Rose of the Soil Association use these practices.

What does yogic laughter offer?

Key yogic laughter practices include:

  • Willingness: being prepared to explore a practice for its benefits, even if the practice initially feels unusual
  • The smile: both smiling and laughing change brain chemistry and improve mood & effectiveness
  • The power of the mind: using the power of memory and anticipation for these same benefits
  • Movement and posture: we change our mind by changing our posture and how we move.

As with mindfulness, yogic laughter practices can require only a little time, they are simple if not easy, and are learnable.

If happiness and good mood are recognized as valuable across a spectrum as wide as Oprah, Google and the Pentagon, I’d say we’re getting there.

Time to laugh with, not at?

Resources include:
Learning yogic laughter practices

Wake Up Laughing’ in Resurgence & Ecologist magazine

Happiness at work – Shawn Achor

General information

Yogic laughter in action (video)

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Start. Laughing. Now.

 

Just, as they say, do it.

It’s good for your body, for your emotions, for your heart, for your health, for your mind, and even for world peace, as the Dalai Lama agreed with the founder of laughter yoga, Dr Kataria, recently.

Take a moment to reflect – how do you feel when you laugh? I pose this question to every group and the most common reply is ‘I feel better’.
What happens when we feel better? Life improves.
What’s the benefit when life improves? Potentially, every aspect of our life – health, relationships, effectiveness, and more.

Can we learn to laugh more? Emphatically YES. Watch how it was done at the recent Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine event.

In its simplest form, smile on the in-breath, chuckle on the out-breath. Its benefits include mood control ie we regulate out own mood better.
By doing this we are more emotionally intelligent and resilient, that is we are more in control of our own life and less controlled by external factors like stress, anxiety and anger.
We become more effective, even in the field of activism, as I wrote in Resurgence magazine

Because we are more in control of our mood, we communicate better and have better relationships at home and with colleagues. Life becomes more joyful.

We can all learn this. Here’s one way, on this next course.

Let’s all have a more joyful year, for ourselves, our family & friends, our colleagues, and the world at large?

www.joehoare.co.uk

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Enjoy the unenjoyable

 

A testing time is approaching for many of us. How can we best get through it?

Besides the relax/breathe/smile techniques, here are 3 you might not have used much before, if at all.

  1. Commit to enjoying. Before you leave your bed in the morning, affirm to yourself you’re going to have a good day, no matter what. At the very least, you start your day on the front foot, not the back. Your smiling practices help but beyond that, make a non-negotiable resolve to yourself that you’re going to have a good day. Do whatever you need to set that intention but give it the same kind of determination an Olympic gold-medalist would.
  2. Sacred space. At interval during the day, take time out for yourself. Joseph Campbell referred to this sacred space as perhaps the most important personal practice we have. It allows us to re-centre ourselves, which is vital when we feel under pressure. Leave the room, be somewhere else, but see it and use it as a safety valve.
  3. Imagine light. A successful no-nonsense self-made business-woman I knew was aware of the importance of working in a subtle as well as practical way. Before any presentation she’d do a visualization in which she’d fill the room with her favourite colour, which happened to be pink. One time someone came up to her after her presentation and commented ‘did you notice how everything looked a bit pink?’

Even if you just use this as a mental rehearsal exercise, it is surprisingly powerful.
It is also extremely easy to do as it only takes a second or so – longer if you like, but not necessarily.
It also works well in team settings and with meetings, by the way, because the net result is you build your resilience.

I guarantee if you use these tips your enjoyment increases.

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flatYou are also likely to find pleasure replaces dread, you become more relaxed and happier, and you connect better than you thought likely, or even possible.

You won’t be the first to have these experiences from using these tips.
Happy enjoyment.

Useful links:

smiling practices

relax/breathe/smile techniques

team settings and meetings

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You are awesome – yes, you.

 

I was thinking awesome this morning.

I suddenly realised that two of the most awesome people I’ve known in my life were both almost completely uneducated, yet they both had a spark that people still remember. That spark was their ability to figure things out, be nobody’s fool and therefore highly perceptive.

In today’s parlance, they were creative, intuitive and authentic. They understood themselves, and therefore life, well enough to see to the heart of situations. Neither of them had high flying careers yet they excelled,  and impressed everyone who met them because they were so ‘real’.

If they could, why not us too?

Can we be more ‘real’? We’re already unique, creative individuals, so can we learn to expand our uniqueness?
Why might we want to?

One simple way to expand our uniqueness is to become more aware of the flow of life. Life is swirling and changing in & around us all the time, yet how aware of this are we? If we’re ‘in our heads’ the answer is always: not very.
As soon as we engage with our embodied consciousness, awareness floods in, stress and tension ease, mood improves, life becomes more enjoyable, we communicate better, and relationships and effectiveness improve.

How do we do this? A simple mantra is ‘feet, breathe, smile’.

When we put attention on our feet, especially the soles of our feet, we get out of our heads.
When we become aware of and focus on our breathing, we relax and calm down.
When we smile, we imbue our awareness with good-naturedness.

One of the cumulative effects is to deepen our connection with our knowing self, our intuition – including perceptiveness and ability to ‘figure things out’.

I observe people entering this state of embodied awareness, and every time they become more radiant and beautiful.
They become relaxed, empowered and confident.
Without fail, they know what to do next, what their next step is and how to take it.
They become aware they have the resources to do what needs doing.
They do it.
They activate their zest for life.

Joehoare---front-Business-card---flatThey become awesome in front of my eyes.

Get out of your head and go for full awareness.
Use the mantra and practice: ‘Feet, breathe, smile’.
Give it a go. Get more awesome.

Tell me how you get on.

Useful links
Zest for life
‘Feet, breathe, smile’
Take your next step

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Beyond McMindfulness (hint: think ‘laughter practices’)

‘This makes me more present than anything else’, said the Maori homeopath, ‘more than my own meditation practice’

She was referring to the awareness practices she’d just experienced in a yogic laughter session at the Bristol laughter club.

blc logoIndividually at first, we explored awareness of feet, breath, hands, ears and so on.
We then explored them progressively and cumulatively.

Next, we explored how deeply we could maintain this awareness  while walking and moving.

Next, we took off our regular masks and added the quality of a soft face, ie a smile. We experienced the extra dimension the smile added.

Progressively we explored how there’s no limit to how deeply we can be aware, and how the smile deepens awareness.

Simple but not easy, to use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s expression.

The effect? Becoming more present, absolutely anchored in the present moment, connecting warmly with fellow human beings.
The quality of experience? Quiet, joyful contentment.

This simple exercise gets better the more we use it. ‘Gets better’ means becomes more effective. The more present we are, the better we can respond to the requirements of the current moment – with less stress, less anxiety, less frustration, more calmness, more peacefulness, more effectiveness.

McMindfulness does not deliver this. Mindfulness does. Yogic laughter practices do, par excellence.

Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

 

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What’s your next step? ‘Be the question’

In a quandry? At a crossroads?

Frustrated, dissatisfied, stressed, suffering, angsty, antsy?

Solution: get out of your own way, you know exactly what to do.

Last weekend I spent a fair bit of time helping people realise they know exactly what to do next in their life. Time after time, we’d chat for 3 or 4 minutes and then it became clear, crystal clear, what their next step was. The only ‘problem’ was them being in their own way – and once they saw this, they had their ‘A-ha’ moment and with a bit of help saw exactly what to do next, and how.

It’s a different step for everyone, but we always know. Always.

  • Sometimes it’s asking ourselves the right question.
  • Sometimes it’s accessing body wisdom.
  • Sometimes it’s shedding our ‘story’.
  • Sometimes it’s starting a new practice.

It always involves change & growing through resistance, and yet we always know it’s right because our knowing side, our still small voice of calm, just knows.

The knack is getting out of our own way – through breakdown, addiction, meditation practice etc – and using outside help.

This ‘help’ comes in many forms, for as Wayne Dyer said beautifully:
‘We’re all just walking each other home’.

So this ‘help’ can just as easily be a dog or tree or a child, it’s not necessarily adult or ‘professional’.

Ask, in the sense of ‘be your question’, and your helper and your solution present themselves. Always. Without fail.

This is the most empowering and solution-focused mindset we can have. I’ve seen it get people into their new groove time after time.

We know. We always know.
Be your question and ask for help.
Ask me, if you like.
But just ask.

www.joehoare.co.uk

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

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Laughter, happiness: what’s pain got to do with it?

All the best & juiciest bits of life are in our shadow, that painful place where we don’t like to look, that place we try and rationalise away. We cleverly or clumsily pretend it isn’t there, or worse, pretend we don’t need to go there – into the lurking cave where our ‘monster’ lives.

What we forget is that inside this same cave is our treasure, our life’s juiciness. It is just the other side of our fearsome ‘monster’. But we’re afraid the ‘monster’ will devour us, destroy us, annihilate us.
What we also forget is that our ‘monster’ wants to play, to dance. A love dance. A happy dance. A playful dance. A dance of delight.
Our ‘monster’ wants us to set it free.

I have seen people transformed by taking their ‘monster’ into their arms and play with it.

I’ve seen their body change. I’ve felt their breathing change. I’ve heard their voice change.
I’ve seen them transform – relax and become happier.
I’ve heard their laugh change.

All of us in the field of developing human potential – mindfulness, meditation, laughter yoga, laughter therapy, positive psychology, emotional intelligence et al – need to have danced with our ‘monster’, our pain.
How else can we invite others to develop, if we haven’t?

Build your courage.
Smile. Laugh. Breathe deeply. Laugh. Loosen your body. Laugh. Mentally say ‘YES’.
Trust – hold your hand out in invitation, take your ‘monster’ and dance & play.

Do it. Do it now. Whatever it takes, however you do it – just do it now. Dance & play with laughter and delight. Lead and follow. Swirl, twirl, roll & rock, leap, sway and smile.

Do it now.

www.joehoare.co.uk

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

Monthly laughletter

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