With the US economy slumping, the going has got very tough, but the tough are no longer shopping. They’re laughing.
Not just any old laughter, but laughter yoga, a form of exercise that blends bold belly laughs and noisy “meditation” with rhythmic clapping, waddling around like a penguin or taking part in a conga line, and deep yogic breathing.
“Life is hard, the economy is bad, there are problems meeting the budget for homes, and laughter is such an easy thing. It comes naturally,” said Nira Berry as she led 60 people, including cancer patients, in an hour-long session of ha-ha yoga at a hospital in this Washington suburb.
A quick warm-up of jiving to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate” and it was straight into the serious business of laughing, as the group followed Berry’s lead and pronounced a determined ho-ho, followed by a rapid ha-ha-ha.
“Laughter yoga is a unique exercise that combines laughter with yogic breathing. When we laugh we exhale, and we automatically take a deep inhale afterwards, which is where the yogic breathing comes in,” Berry said.
To take part in a laughter yoga class, you need neither a sense of humour nor a pill, a drink or the ability to bend your legs into difficult yoga postures.
The only prerequisite is the ability to laugh, but getting people to laugh on command is difficult.
So Berry tells her students to fake it. “Even if you fake it, your body is doing all kinds of wonderful things inside and you start changing your mood and getting healthier. And at the end people are really laughing,” she said.
Begun 15 years ago in India by Madan Kataria, laughter yoga is popular in Europe and another 30 countries around the world but is only just catching on in the United States.