Laughter Yoga

An annoyance leads to a joyous calling

by Katie Zimmerman

Laughter yoga—yes, it’s a real thing! I first discovered laughter yoga on my college campus when a group of people were laughing obnoxiously outside of my dorm while I was trying to take a nap. What started as annoyance morphed into curiosity, then participation. Before I knew it, I enrolled to become a certified instructor.

Laughter yoga is built around the simple idea that laughter is good for us—mentally, physically and spiritually. We all know the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes after a good laugh. Laughter can lighten our mood and make us feel connected with others. But there’s not always a lot to laugh about. Good belly laughs can be few and far between. The point of laughter yoga is that we laugh whether we feel like it or not; mood follows action. Surprisingly, our bodies can’t tell the difference between real laughter and fake laughter, which means we get the same benefit even if we’re pretending. More important, fake laughter quickly turns into real laughter.

Surprisingly, our bodies can’t tell the difference between real laughter and fake laughter, which means we get the same benefit even if we’re pretending.

When I lead a session, I walk groups through situations in which we laugh or pretend to laugh. A session will often open with “the handshake laugh,” where we mingle while shaking hands and laughing. Another exercise involves everyone picking an animal and laughing in the way they imagine that animal would laugh. How would a squirrel laugh? Other exercise encourages us to approach tricky situations with grace and positive attitudes. “The fender bender” laugh and “I got a bad grade” laugh help us to relax and not take ourselves so seriously.

Regardless of the group or laughter exercise, something happens when people laugh that is out of my control. More and more I find myself bogged down, over-analyzing, overwhelmed, and intolerant of myself and others. Then I’m reminded that we are “Easter people” called to hope and joy. Laughter reminds me to seek and cultivate wonder and awe. Laugher shifts my perspective to the present moment and a deep appreciation for myself (yes, I laugh alone) or the person I’m laughing with. Laughter yoga has taught me that this joy, gratitude and natural high is available to me at any time, whether I’m leading a group or by myself. What a wonderful thing that our God calls us to laugh and laughs with us!

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