I had arrived in the middle of a laughter exercise so I stood, a bit uncomfortably, on the sidelines. It is not everyday that you see adults frolicking around on the beach laughing. Once they finished the exercise a slight man walked over and said “welcome!” He had a face that radiated joy…a smile from ear to ear, bright eyes, and a warm voice that put me at ease. He explained that laughter yoga is not based on telling jokes or laughing at another person, but is based on using laughing as a form exercise and finding the joy within each of us. The practice of laughing has been found to relieve stress, release endorphins similar to the feeling of a “runner’s high,” help with digestion, and can even tighten up weak abs.
My first exercise was called ‘walking the dog,’ where you pretend you have a dog on a leash that is pulling you about. All the while you laugh and interact with other people’s dogs. Immediately everyone jumped right into the action of their dogs…I noticed some got tangled in imaginary leashes, others had two dogs that were pulling them in opposite directions, and some were even down close to their dogs laughing at the animal and kissing their faces. Of course all of this was acted out and done while laughing. At first I found myself forcing a laugh to come out, hesitant about how to really conduct myself in this quirky group. The next laughter exercise was ‘lion laughter,’ where you pretend to be a lion playing with other lions. Once our leader said, “pounce,” and we all began growling, sticking tongues out in the cool beach air, pawing the air and sand, and jumping about like lion cubs. I seriously did not know what to think at this point…I just let go and did it! I let myself act out each exercise given and in the process found myself authentically laughing. Laughing not from my throat, but from my belly and from my heart.
After doing a few more exercises we laid down on a blanket to practice some breathing techniques. I found my mind settling and all the worry of the week began to disappear. I could see the beauty of where I was in that moment…the waves crashing in the background, the sun warming my arms and face, the sand cool on my toes, the crystal blue skies.
I left laughter yoga with a smile, ear to ear, a sense of peace, and a feeling of renewal. As the streets began to fill up with people and the store fronts began to open up, I felt optimistic. I thought that they all didn’t know what they had just missed out on. I felt as if I had found a secret…one that was goofy but oh so exciting and uplifting. So next time you are in Laguna Beach on an early morning don’t miss out on laughter yoga.
The Laguna Beach Laughter Yoga club has had over 18,000 unique visitors attend their yoga sessions. They have been featured on Oprah, Geraldo at Large, Sanjay Gupta on CNN, and Today in LA.
For more information visit the Laguna Beach Laughter Yoga Institute website: www.lyinstiture.org
By Anne-Marie S.