Wednesday, November 26, 2008

laughter yoga

Laughter yoga, is it the best medicine for stress?

Recently, I received a request from one of my students for laughter yoga.  My first feeling was discomfort at this request, and my initial reaction was to try to find excuses why I shouldn't teach it in class, especially in a corporate setting.  

I am grateful for this student's persistence in requesting laughter yoga.  Because I had told my students that I was open to suggestions and requests, I figured I had better follow through.   I went on-line to find out about laughter yoga.  I realized that to learn more, a DVD purchase was in order.  I watched it at home, alone.  

Uncertainty was the pervasive feeling after viewing the video.  The idea of leading laughter yoga was way out of my comfort zone.  I am not a good fake laugher and I don't have a good boisterous laugh either.  I wasn't sure that I could pull this off.

As I watched the DVD that showed groups of people doing the exercise and obviously enjoying it, I couldn't help but smile.  My brain was still convinced that these people on the video were surely faking it for the camera. 

Dr. Madan Kataria who founded laughter yoga international and taught the exercises on the DVD says that laughter yoga is not someone standing around telling jokes, but a set of exercises that works the cardiovascular system and the deep abdominal muscles. If you ever get a chance to see one of his videos, he has the most amazing spontaneous laugh.

I pictured myself teaching the exercises, certain that I would feel absolutely ridiculous. I was worried that I would make my students feel ridiculous as well.  I saved the laughter yoga for the last session in our 12 week series.  I figured that if it was a wash and they banished me from working there that at least I finished the 12 week series.

Before my corporate class, I taught another regular class at AKF.  I was able to share a bit about my discomfort for this new endeavor with my students and also demonstrate some of the exercises.  To my surprise, it completely lightened the mood of the class and created a connection for the students and an element of pure fun.

As I was introducing the exercises of laughter yoga at the corporate class, I let my students know that this is not meant for entertainment and then joked that they may be entertained by my efforts.  At first students flashed me a look of "you are kidding right?".  But everyone was game and participated.  Not only did they participate, but with a sense of vigor that I had not seen in any of our other sessions together.

What struck me most, as I observed the class and people's reactions during laughter yoga, was that we looked just like the people video.  The expressions on our faces and twinkle in our eyes, it was the same. 

Perhaps the people on the DVD were not faking it for the camera after all.  

When I left the class, I experienced a sense of calm and joy that I hadn't felt after teaching other classes.  It turned out that the request for laughter yoga was the best gift I have received in a long time.

After my first encounter, I have had the courage to share laughter yoga with other students.  I am always surprised by people's willingness to relax and join in.  I have been very surprised by the gratitude people express after laughter yoga.

Perhaps laughter really is the best medicine.