As one of our dynamic teachers at World Yoga Festival this summer, Joe Hoare runs the Bristol Laughter Club, which is over 13 years old and is the longest-running series of laughter yoga workshops outside India. Sessions are dynamic, energising and life-enhancing. His own life changed when he ‘woke up’ about 25 years ago. He is the co-author (with the Barefoot Doctor) of ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’. The below piece is taken from his blog.
So, What does laughter yoga add to mindfulness?
The short answer is lots.
Time and again, the feedback from participants after experiencing a session is they’ve never felt so present, so quickly.
It is extremely common for physical symptoms like headaches to disappear, for stress levels to drop, for energy levels to rise, for awareness to expand and consequently for people to experience an unexpected calm and serenity, all within fifteen or twenty minutes.
Whether the session is titled ‘Mindfulness’, ‘Gentle Laughing Mindfulness’ or simply ‘laughter yoga with Joe’, the core activities are the same. There are specific facial exercises combined with embodiment, breathing, moving, feeling, connecting. The delivery is light-hearted, flexible and spontaneous with ‘space to learn’ so participants can be aware of their own processes. This is an important aspect.
The cumulative effect is to activate people’s zest for life.
Why does this work?
The immediate answer is because it gets participants out of their heads.
Very quickly indeed it breaks them free of their endless thinking cycle. It moves their awareness into their fuller consciousness – their body, their breathing and their overall connection with self and others. When this is done as a repeating, deepening pattern, it becomes an endlessly beneficial practice.
A subtler answer is it works because of the difference between being aware and being aware with a smile. This is like the difference between a passive, observational meditation and a proactive, dynamic one. Both ‘work’, and both have their place.
The smile gives the experience a particular dynamic.
How long do the benefits last?
As with mindfulness itself, the more it is practiced, the better it ‘works’. Again, it is simple but not easy. The strong incentive is that even experienced practitioners feel so good so quickly.
What’s the best way to start?
Smile. Feel the smile. Be aware of the internal quality of the smile. Smile with your whole being, and be alert for any differences in how you feel and how others behave and react.
It might be the most enjoyable practice you ever do.
Do it now?