Three years ago I did a bungy jump from the bridge across the Kawarau River.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed the experience but it has had a positive impact on my life.
Now when I am faced with something challenging I think, if I can throw myself off a bridge then I can do this.
What’s more as a result of that jump I now deliberately do something outside my comfort zone at least once a year because I know I can and feel better for it.
I tackled this year’s challenge last weekend. It was a Laughter Yoga workshop which though challenging in anticipation was not at all challenging in the doing.
The premise behind Laughter Yoga is that anyone can laugh for no reason without relying on or resorting to comedy, humour or jokes.
In a LY session laughter is initiated through laughter exercises then with eye contact and childlike (but not childish) playfulness it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.
Its called LY because laughter exercises are combined with yoga breathing, bringing more oxygen into the body and brain which boosts energy, health and well being.
LY is backed up by science, including the fact that the body can’t differentiate between fake and real laughter if it’s done willingly. Whether you’re faking it or laughing for real you get the same physiological and psychological benefits.
LY was started by a medical doctor, Dr Madan Kataria, with just five people in a Mumbai park. There are now thousands of laughter clubs in more than 65 countries.
Last weekend a dozen learners and two facilitators of us gathered in the Otago Pioneer Women’s hall (a gem of a building in Moray Place which I must have passed by hundreds of times without ever noticing).
We learned about the four stages of LY through doing – starting with clapping, then deep breathing and stretching followed by laughter exercises and relaxation/meditation.
I did a short session by myself on Monday which wasn’t as much fun as the groups ones had been, but still gave similar benefits afterwards and I went down to Dunedin for a Laughter Yoga session last night.
It didn’t feel physically demanding at the time but I’m noticing stomach muscles I obviously hadn’t used for a long time.
I’m also feeling more relaxed, energised and in control than I have for longer than I can remember.
Laughter Yoga isn’t magic but it’s cast a spell over me and I’m loving it.
One of the exercises you can do is laughter arguing. You sit in pairs back to back, tell each other exactly what you think – at the same time, in gibberish with an Italian accent.
I defy you to stay angry after that which shows that LY isn’t only good for individuals but for relationships.
A smile is the shortest bridge between two people, if smiling and laughing work between individuals why not groups, communities and even countries?
Why not laugh for peace?
Today is the International Day of Peace (Facebook page here) and this post is a contribution to Save the Children’s blog for peace. There is more on their Facebook page.
You can read more about LY at Laughteryoga.org on Facebook and YouTube.
Other blog posts for peace:
(I’ll update this as I come across them, please feel free to leave links in the comments).
My blog for Peace: From Battle Parent to Peace Parent in the Autism World at Autism and Oughtisms.