Tag Archives: laughter yoga

‘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

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Laughter yoga daily practice: why doesn’t it always work?

 

A core laughter practice is intentional, self-initiated laughter. In laughter yoga this is called ‘laughing for no reason’.

Peering behind the language, it is laughing for the sake of laughing. It is a proactive, intentional yogic activity, to access the many benefits that laughter delivers.
This can be a group practice as well as an individual one. The resuts can be profound and life-changing.

Sometimes, though, they change almost nothing, even after years of practice. Why might this be?

(Spoiler alert: it is called ‘Benefit Finding’)

Many of us in the ‘laughter’ community will have had experiences of people’s lives being improved through laughter practices. Sometimes there is an almost immediate result as relief and joy break free. Sometimes it is like the bursting of a dam of seriousness and stress, and when people access this inner quality, they change permanently and instantly.

Sometimes, though, in site of years of practice, this does not happen. Again, many of us probably know people who are able to laugh and laugh without any benefit beyond the immediate physical health boost.

In one particular instance, a long-time practitioner asked me why they could laugh happily for a long time in a laughter session, and yet 30 minutes later be habitually gloomy.

Why indeed?

One short answer is that this is a good reminder that no practice is a magic bullet. Nothing always works every time for everyone.

A further answer is perhaps that psychologically we need to be ready for change. When we are, even if consciously we don’t know we are, even a small intervention can produce big changes.When we are not, nothing will produce changes.

‘Benefit Finding’ is as it says, looking to find the benefits from situations, including or maybe especially, ‘uncomfortable’ ones. Although the array of world-wide laughter practices gives us excellent tools to improve our life, until we are ready to move into a more expansive life, the benefits from these practices will be limited.
‘Moving into a more expansive life’ might involve dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Often we shy away from uncomfortable feelings, and in this case, not even laughter practices will make a difference. We might need additional resources.

So although psychology, science, medicine and spirituality all underpin the potential benefits from laughter practices, until we are prepared for ‘Benefit Finding’, their impact will be as much or as little as we allow – and this might be very little.

As practitioners, the reminder is that our role is to deliver competent, appropriate interventions. Their impact ultimately lies with the recipient. We need to be ready to make other suggestions, or maybe just offer support.

The one thing we cannot guarantee is that laughter practices will ‘work’.

Al we can do is our best, always.

www.joehoare.co.uk 

‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’

 

 

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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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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 #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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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, 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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#laughteryogawithJoe

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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

www.joehoare.co.uk

#laughteryogawithJoe

 

 

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Embodiment & unexpected pain relief in laughter yoga

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

‘I don’t have my shoulder pain anymore’

She was astonished and delighted.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

They, like me, were astonished and delighted.

 

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

 

What can we learn from this?

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

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

The key is practice.

Read the book.

Take an online course

Train

Go on Retreat

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

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