Category Archives: laughter yoga

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.

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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?

 

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Laughter yoga with fewer exercises and more laughter.

 

Why do YOU do laughter yoga? And how?

Nowadays, I never aim to make people laugh. The funny thing is that because of this, I find they laugh more.

The reason for this apparent contradiction, I reckon, is that I ‘begin with the end in mind’, to use Stephen Covey’s Habit 2 from his best-seller ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

For me, the ‘end in mind’ is for people to come alive and to experience union / connection, ie to experience the yogic benefits of laughter yoga.

In this approach, the laughter itself is secondary but because it is coming from a strong personal experience of connection, there is lots of it and it is genuine, natural, joyful & spontaneous.

The key in this approach is to use laughter yoga as principles rather than as a formula & set of exercises.

When we use principles rather than formula, laughter yoga becomes more fluid, more spacious, more spontaneous and also requires less practitioner effort.

For participants, it is more finely tuned to their specific requirements, is more natural and genuine, and specifically aims to allow everyone to find their own level.

It can also be pitched discreetly as a healing experience. Following from this, it means it can therefore be a richer and more rewarding personal experience, and, according to feedback, more enlivening – because the experience is all coming from the inside out.

Essentially, the principles can be reduced to spontaneous ‘playful presence’.

As everyone who practises ‘being present’ knows, this is an ever-deepening never-ending journey. Among other things, it requires an unflinching honesty, the shedding of skins and, especially, the willingness to FEEL.

If followed courageously, life keeps getting better.

Obviously in a short session, all you can do it touch on this, so to achieve this ‘playful presence’, it can be good to be facilitative rather than formulaic, and possibly not use any laughter yoga ‘exercises’ at all.
Why use them if you don’t need to?
Why use them if the laughter is happening naturally, genuinely and spontaneously anyway?

In this approach, laughter yoga is a process and an experience of coming alive and experiencing the joy of being alive – without laughter yoga ‘exercises’ but with masses of laughter.

I would love to hear your thoughts & feelings on this.

Laughter Facilitation Skills aka #laughteryogawithJoe 

 

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What can laughter yoga do for coaches?

Laughing and coaching – ever the twain shall meet?

There are many styles of laughter yoga, as there are of coaching. One key practice (which we explored recently at the SWCouncils conference) is a smiling practice.

This practice is based on a 1988 pencil-in-the-teeth experiment by Professor Frach and Associates which demonstrated the mood-lifting effects of smiling, and their longevity.
As soon as we start examining this, the potential application to coaching practices becomes clear – it is a fast, simple and effective way of shifting mood.

Mood-changing, emotional fluidity and resilience are part of an essential coaching toolkit.
These specific qualities are developed through laughter yoga practices, especially the solo practices.

Although laughter yoga is often considered a group activity – which is how it originated – it has evolved to become fluid and user-friendly in all circumstances.
Part of the practice becomes learning how to internalise these qualities, and learning to make them work fast and effectively.

The Laughter Facilitation Skills course ( #laughteryogawithJoe ) in Bristol, 7/8th October, focuses specifically on this aspect, among others.

At a recent (unrelated) training session, one of the delegates was a coach. She spends part of her working time travelling between clients. She had discovered, independently, that by gripping a pencil across her teeth and therefore having her face in the smiling position, she was in the best mood she could be by the time she reached her next client. This is the smiling exercise!

With a few additional tweaks, her toolkit expanded significantly, but it was great to come across someone who had figured this basic practice out for themselves.

Additional resources

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#laughteryogawithJoe

 

 

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Embodiement & 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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Laughter yoga: #laughteryogawithJoe – the Laughter Facilitations Skills course

 

What does this course offer Laughter Yoga leaders?

The short answer is it ‘teaches’ laughter yoga from the inside out. What this means is the laughter comes from a deeply experienced inner place – a place of natural, spontaneous, genuine joyfulness.

The key practice becomes one of accessing this natural joyfulness, and letting it out, letting it grow, and sharing it.
The ‘inside out’ approach works on its own, and as a complement to ‘traditional’ laughter yoga.

How is this different from other Laughter Yoga courses?

This question is most easily answered by previous participants. Here is one comment from Anne Parry, a Laughter Yoga Trainer:
“This training was different from my previous training, therefore complementary to it.  The weekend was more about principles rather than being prescriptive; and encouraged a gentler approach to introducing laughter……”

This comment is from Nic Walker who had no previous laughter yoga experience, and who now runs her own sessions:
“This wasn’t just about making people laugh but about a more mindful approach to life and wellbeing. He helped us choose to look for the humour, for the positive, to breathe and smile……I’ve now been running my own Laughter Room near Trowbridge for over a year, and doing corporate laughter and wellbeing events and it’s some of the most satisfying work I’ve ever done. I realise I don’t have to ‘make’ people laugh, but to give them permission to let go in a safe space, and they love it too.”

How can it help you?

The key to this course is it offers principles rather than prescription. This means that it adds to and complements your existing skills. Through this course you find new and unexpected ways of adding to existing exercises, effortlessly creating new ones, and being able to devise new ones on the spot.

I’d love to extend these skills to you too. Invariably they bring unexpected and unanticipated benefits – and delight.

For your next steps: there are two courses coming up, one in July (almost sold out) and one in October (earlybirds still available). There are special discounts for existing laughter yoga leaders (15%) and Retreaters / LFS ‘refreshers’ (25%)

I hope to see you soon.

For more general details and videos, head over to www.joehoare.co.uk
#laughteryogawithJoe

 

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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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Viktor Frankl, death camps and laughter yoga – what’s the connection?

 

Between stimulus and response there is a space,” wrote psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl in his unforgettable memoir of his life in a Nazi death camp, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. “In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (Parabola magazine, April 2017)

Viktor Frankl discovered a profound place of inner freedom through his prison camp experiences. He discovered his power of choice, his power to choose how to respond to any given set of circumstances. For this reason he became a beacon and inspiration to others, both at the time and subsequently.

Yoga is about choice, choosing to undertake practices to promote reconnection, happiness, wellbeing and more. The more advanced we become with our yogic practice (whatever mode of yoga we practise), the more we recognise we need to practise it most at those times we least feel like it – because it is when we least feel like affirming life that we most need to.
This is how we develop our personal growth and inner freedom.

Laughter yoga is about choice, personal growth and inner freedom.

Although laughter yoga is based on laughter practices, when it is pursued more as a yoga practice than a laughing practice, it specifically & consciously develops our inner world. It promotes choice, personal growth and inner freedom.

Between stimulus and response there is a space,”……. Laughter yoga chooses to fill that space in a life-affirming way. This is what connects the threads in the title.

The more you develop your own laughter yoga, the more you use a daily laughter practice, the more diligently you apply yourself to this wellbeing and reconnection discipline, the more you find that you can laugh ‘inside’ as much as ‘outside’.
You don’t need to laugh out loud to be practising your laughter yoga.

I visited my dentist recently. During my treatment I laughed loudly – on the inside.
In this tiny way, I chose to fill my space between stimulus and response (how do you generally ‘respond’ to dental treatment?) with endorphin-releasing life-affirming silent laughter yoga.

When we choose to develop our ‘growth and freedom’ we can apply it everyday. At the very least, we can use it as an antidote to the modern epidemics of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and more.

The more we practise, the more readily its benefits will be available to us should we ever be unfortunate enough to need them in dire and extreme circumstances.

As ever, it’s practice, practice, practice. Let’s be wise and not wait till we have a life-threatening situation before we start.

Let’s choose to start now?

Viktor Frankl

Parabola magazine

Awakening the Laughing Buddha within

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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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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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