In September 2011, there was nothing stable about my life. I had just graduated with a degree in political science (a field that I had no interest in pursuing professionally), and was taking night classes in journalism, working a full-time office job in Toronto and volunteering at several organizations’all while trying to pursue my true passion, writing. I was anxious and stressed, and that left me feeling agitated, moody and constantly tired.
Then my mother told me about the benefits she received from taking a class in Laughter Yoga. This is a healing method that incorporates unconditional laughter and calming breathing techniques. I was wary about trying it, as I tend to be introverted. But I was desperate to change something about my life and feel better, so I decided to give it a shot.
The first class had me hooked. Without wasting any time, our instructor let us know this class wasn’t going to focus on Downward Dog or Warrior poses. Instead, she told us to stand in a circle, face the person on our left, point at them and simply start laughing. After the initial awkward moment of fake giggles, it was as though the silly child in all of us took over, and contagious giggles slowly turned into full-fledged roaring laughter.
Maybe it was the positive energy that was created by a room full of grown men and women laughing in unison without any comedic stimuli. But within 10 minutes, my mood really lifted, and I felt thoroughly energized after the hour-long class. It was as though my inner spirit of joy had been stimulated.
Lynn Himmelmann, a Toronto-based Laughter Yoga instructor and the owner of Life Enhancement Essentials, says my reaction is a very common one, and that’s the reason this type of yoga is growing in popularity worldwide. (Go to laughteryoga.org for a list of clubs worldwide, including Canada; there are clubs in large cities across the country. Or simply search ‘laughter yoga.’) Himmelmann adds: ‘Miraculous things can happen with regular practice. I have seen people go back to work after being off for years with anxiety issues. I have seen people with social phobias gain the confidence to live fulfilled social lives. It is really a beautiful thing.’
I can attest to the beauty of it. After regularly attending a few sessions, Laughter Yoga taught me how to create a positive mental state‘even when I wasn’t practising it’by incorporating some of the techniques at home. As a freelance writer, life is very unpredictable, so stress can and does crop up. It is usually during late nights when I’m trying to meet deadlines that I use the simple skills I learned in my classes. And somehow everything instantly seems to become a little more manageable.