Category Archives: Laughing Yogi

Why does laughter yoga matter?

 

Laughter yoga – laughter as yoga – what’s the big deal?

Possibly it is the biggest deal.

So much human life is characterised by over-seriousness and over-thinking. We have probably all experienced both, regularly. Possibly we still do?

Does it serve us? What goes better in our life when we are over-serious and/or over-think? If it doesn’t serve us, and we recognise it doesn’t serve us, how can we stop? How can we learn not to be over-serious and not to over-think?

 

The answer is practice – practicing not being over-serious and not over-thinking. It is only a question of practicing enough so we learn new reflexes.

Only.

Psychology, medicine, science all show how our quality of life improves when we reverse this trend.

Our own personal experience affirms this. We know this. Every time I ask people how they feel after smiling and laughing, the answer is always: ‘better’.

(…… and I’ve been using my smiling techniques – so on way to (the railway station on Sun evening to get train, the road was closed just outside the station – no idea how to get round to station. But did I fret? No, I smiled (well to be absolutely honest I did fret first, until I remembered to smile!…..)

I experience this myself. I am aware how the practice of self-initiated smiling and/or laughing (ie without jokes, humour or any external stimulus) calms me down and also has the immediate effect of reversing over-seriousness and over-thinking. It helps me deal better (ie more effectively) with stresses, anxieties, irritations. It helps me communicate better (more effectively, peacefully, with greater compassion and understanding) both in person and through social media.

It helps me connect better with myself and with others.

Self-initiated smiling and laughing are core practices in laughter yoga.

We smile – just because.

We laugh – just because.

(Photo with Dr Madan Kataria, founder of laughter yoga, and Madhuri Kataria)

When we do these as a yoga, ie to energise our life on every level, they reframe our life. When we do these as a conscious choice – ‘In this moment I consciously choose to improve my life experience’ – it is empowering and life-affirming in ways that can surprise us. This act of choosing takes us to the core human experience: ‘the freedom to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances’ (Victor Frankl)

When we use laughter yoga self-initiated smiling and laughing, we get multiple benefits. Our decision/choice to do these is instantly life-affirming in this Victor Frankl way. This in itself makes us feel better. Additionally, there are the many measured biological and biochemical and neurological benefits. These can make us feel better. Additionally, we immeditately start to connect better. We can create a virtuous circle of choosing to feel better, which makes us feel better, which helps us connect better, which then makes us feel better because we are feeling better and starting to get better feedback from others, and so on.

All this can be triggered by simple laughter yoga smiling and laughing exercises which are fun to do, easy to learn, and can be done on your own. They are at the heart of  the #laughteryogawithJoe experience.

Just keep practicing.

How can you to learn to? Get the free 2-minute video (email me joe @ joehoare.co.uk)
(Do share this blog if you find it helpful.)

Additionally, you can:

Learn online

Learn in person.

Learn at a conference

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

 

 

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Social media driving you mad? How laughter yoga helps.

 

Do you sometimes find social media is a chaos-theory series of infinite rabbit holes? With distractions that spin off from distractions? Full of people being ‘wrong’?

Do you find sometimes you get sucked in?

Write hasty and ill-advised comments?

Lose your focus?

Do you want to change all this?

I have learnt to use my laughter yoga (almost!) all the time on social media and email.

Here’s how.

While laughter yoga is often viewed as a ‘Marigold Hotel’ slightly zany group activity – not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course – it can also be adapted into individual, pragmatic day-to-day working practices.

The key is figuring out how to turn group ‘laughter exercise’ activities into personal practices for computer work.

  • First, laughter does not have to be out loud. We can laugh silently, on the inside.
    With practice, it becomes something we feel. It has the capacity to lighten our mood. When we develop our awareness sufficiently that we realise we are getting distracted, losing our focus, getting fired up, we can use silent, internalised, invisible laughter to help us refocus and calm down.
    Why not do it now?
    Do a silent, invisible laugh now and see how you feel? Does it change your mood at all? Do you feel more present? Notice whatever you’re feeling.
    The more often we take the time to notice being present, the easier it becomes – even and especially on social media.
  • Smile.
    With practice, smiling triggers this same change in mindset.
    Smiling while writing helps prevent over-seriousness and over-thinking. Smiling exercises are core laughter yoga exercises and over time, help us re-wire our brains so we naturally and genuinely smile more.

    The relevance here is to remember to do this when at your computer. The smile can be gentle and almost imperceptible, a slight upward-turn at the corners of your mouth, a slight crinkling around your eyes, a slight lifting of your eyebrows. Fortunately, your brain recognises all these signals and responds accordingly, with among other things, a lifting of your mood.
    As before, why not do it now and observe any differences you experience?
  • Embodiment.
    Remember to be embodied. Moving deliberately and consciously aids embodiment, and transforms social media and computer time.
    How can we feel our embodiment while at our computer?
    Stretch. Any stretch will do. Just do it.
    Feel. Feel your feet, feel your ‘seat’. The practice is to be aware of these areas while on your computer. Wriggle your toes, move slightly on your chair, enough to be aware of sensations here – and notice any change in mindset.
  • Breathe.
    Remember to breathe. We are all likely to have heard this adage many times before.
    It is easy and sadly common for our breathing to become shallow, especially when at the computer. Remembering to take deep breaths, and from the belly, helps us refocus, break free from distraction and alleviate any over-thinking tendencies.
    It can also help calm us which is sometimes important?
    ‘Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition’
    We all need to remember this sometimes?

The goal is to embed these practices into out psyche so that we start to use them unconsciously.

Here are some suggestions from my own practice:

  • Practice smiling continuously when composing an email.
  • Make a point of smiling and being aware of the soles of your feet while scrolling through your newsfeed.
  • Remember to smile and breathe deeply when receiving notifications.
  • Practice silent invisible laughter when replying to comments.
  • Mix and match these.

Contact me if you’d like a one-to-one to embed these techniques yourself if you want to use social media more effectively and productively.

[ As a core present-moment practice, I have a 2-minute Move / Breathe / Smile video.
Email me ( joe @ joehoare . co . uk) if you’d like a copy? ]

PS Remember to sign up if you’d like these blogs direct to your inbox?

[Learn more at www.joehoare.co.uk  ]

 

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Laughter yoga: world peace through laughter

 

World peace through laughter is one of the main aims of laughter yoga – a ‘global movement for health, happiness and world peace.’

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu are both great laughers. Although they are not, as far as we know, laughter yoga practitioners, they laugh effervescently. They radiate joy. They are masters at not taking themselves too seriously, and their laughter bubbles up effortlessly and naturally. It spreads joy and peace.

John Cleese, an early visitor to laughter yoga, writes: ‘A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it just destroys any kind of system of dividing people’.

These benefits are among the many that laughter yoga achieves. When we ‘laugh for no reason’, ‘L.A.W – Laugh At Will’, use ‘self-initated laughter’, we are engaging in a process that easily leads us towards world peace.

Why? Because the willingness required to laugh as a practice is naturally good-natured. It induces and encourages tolerance. When we laugh more, we laugh more – we find more things to laugh about. Our laughter is more easily and naturally triggered. Life becomes funnier.

We can even learn to be more self-deprecating, to laugh more at ourselves.

We also start to smile more. Mother Teresa said: ‘Peace starts with a smile’.

Do you want a 2-minute video with 3 simple  Move, Breathe, Smile exercises? Email me joe @ joehoare.co.uk with ‘Yes pls Smile’ in the subject line and you’ll get them straight to your inbox

All these strands are woven into the thread of laughter yoga, and contribute to its global spread.

Sometimes, in the face of endless world problems, we underestimate the potential impact of our own contribution. When we use our laughter yoga to practice peacefulness, we are making the one difference we can – by starting with ourselves. When we are peaceful in the face of provocations – it makes a difference.

Yes?

What are your thoughts and feelings?

 

‘Laughter yoga: a global movement for health, happiness and world peace’

Read more here www.joehoare.co.uk

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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 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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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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Laughter yoga and aromatherapy – is there joy in your hands?

 

I had the pleasure and privilege of giving a talk at the recent IFA conference in London. The theme was Preventative Healthcare, and my topic was ‘Laughter yoga’.

The significance of laughter yoga for aromatherapy professionals is its focus on self-care, with potential application for clients.

Laughter yoga is often thought of as a group activity, practised outdoors, with laughing-out-loud laughter. There is huge self-care potential in this.

However, there are other ways of practising laughter yoga including from the inside out (#laughteryogawithJoe) and this is where it can become directly applicable and useful to aromatherapy practitioners.

Laughter can be silent, internal and joyful.
Laughter yoga can be practised as an internal discipline with an energetic focus. This means being aware of and focusing on how the laughter yoga impacts mood and wellbeing, and how it can be directed to specific body parts.

Which brings us to our hands.

With practice, we can develop the ability to experience particular qualities in our hands.
For instance, we can both feel and transmit qualities like joy. We ourselves probably all recognise not only the difference of other people’s physical touch, but also the overall ‘feel’ and ‘presence’ of the practitioner.

Laughter yoga has the potential to increase the amount of joy we both feel and transmit through our hands.

Many of us will be familiar with some form of the Inner Smile meditation practice. We can use this in a physical way too.
The easiest way to start exploring this is through the power of your own smile.
The key practice is to smile a naturally warm and genuine smile and to feel this smile.
Once we have identified this feeling, we then practice moving it around our body, and to our hands. When we focus on feeling the feeling, we invariably start noticing differences – as will our clients.

Joy in our hands, everyone?

www.joehoare.co.uk

www.joehoareonline.co.uk

Laughter yoga

 

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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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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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