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Laughter and Yoga: Being Happy on Purpose

Wellness   |   March 13, 2020  |  by  Bharata Wingham

Laughter in Circle

One of the key indicators of happiness is laughter. Normally, we think we need to wait for something to happen before happiness can occur or before we hit the happiness button, but, that’s not true! We have the power to go ahead and hit that button! I call this “spontaneous self-liberation”.

With Laugha Yoga we can take a direct route to happiness with laughter. Laughter is like the expressway to changing a bad moment into a good one. It’s hard to maintain unhappiness while we are laughing.

Granted we can’t laugh 24 hours a day or we would never get anything done. Yet we can find a few moments throughout the day where we can have a little laugh for no reason whatsoever. Based on the idea that “drops make oceans”—one of Sri Swami Satchidananda‘s favorite sayings—we can have those drops of belly laughter anytime we want. No one stops us but ourselves.

“Laughter is the best medicine no matter the illness.” 

-Sri Swami Satchidananda

Guru Laughter! Sri Swami Satchidananda laughing

The Benefits of Laughter

While laughter is enjoyed more with others, we can use our ability to laugh for no reason whatsoever to experience some of the same benefits we feel with pranayama. With prolonged laughter, we can boost our oxygen levels while balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It enhances mental alertness and creativity as well as increasing T-cells which bolsters our immune system.

It has also been discovered by modern science that our bodies don’t know the difference between real and fake laughter. To the body, fake laughter is as good as the real thing because it releases all the “feel good” chemicals like endorphins and serotonin any time we laugh, pretend or fake.

7 Daily Laugha Yoga Practices

Here are some fun exercises we can do on our own or with others throughout the day, whenever we find a little time and space to practice them. These “games” or practices, in Sanskrit Leelas, which means “play” in English produce a positive shift in our state of mind. It is as if there is a switch in our mind which we can flip to change our mood into a fun and playful state at will. I have found the easiest way to initiate this positive change is through the breath. Check out the following seven Laugha Yoga practices!

1. Laughayama

These steps can be done with eyes open or closed and great to do before entering meditation: Close your eyes and take a deep inhale. On the exhale release a little giggle. Do this 5 – 10 times.

2. Morning Bathroom Mirror Laugh

First thing in the morning or anytime throughout the day when you have some free time just find a mirror where you are alone and make eye contact with yourself and have a big laugh. This can be done out-loud or silently if there are others about it. 

3. Fake Smile

Look in the mirror and put on a really big fake smile. The cheesier the better!

4. Driving Laughter

Next time you’re out driving in your car just burst out laughing for no apparent reason. This is easier if you are alone in the car but if not ask your companions if they would like to join you. If not it’s okay just let them know you are practicing a new form of Yoga and show them how it works.

5. Handshake Laughter

Next time you greet someone by shaking their hand just have a gentle laugh. I have discovered that it is immediately contagious, and nine times out of ten they will laugh with me.

6. Bank of America Laugh

This one is for the more advanced practitioners. Next time you are standing in line in the bank open your checkbook and have a little laugh. If anyone notices you just shrug your shoulders and say, “I have more than I thought!” This is also fun to do at grocery and department stores.

7. Blend Laughter with Kapalabati

Inhale and begin squeezing the abdomen on the exhale saying HO, HO, HA, HA repetitively for 1 to 3 minutes.

 “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t yoga.”

-Sri Swami Satchidananda

Laugha Yoga has taught me that I don’t have to wait for someone to push my laughter buttons. I always imagine that there is a laugh button or switch that I have complete control over and can activate it any time I want. It is an instant mood improvement.

One of my favorite philosophers, Alan Watts, sums up the whole idea perfectly;

“I may, at last, admit to myself who I really am, and draw aside the veil and realize after all, when all is said and done, I Am That I Am. And when it comes down to it, that is really rather funny. They say in Zen when you attain satori (sudden enlightenment), nothing is left to you at that moment but to have a good laugh.” 

Remember- just keep on laughing!

Yoga of Forgiveness:

A Course In Miracles

Bharata Wingham | April 10-12

This course focuses on “The Forgiveness Principle”– a crucial aspect of the path of Yoga and key to our emotional health and explores the place of forgiveness in our spiritual practices. Sign Up Today!

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