This page explains the philosophy and five key concepts taught by the American School of Laughter Yoga. They are the foundation of Laughter Wellness, a complete wellbeing workout that integrates Laughter Yoga exercises and the power of breath, movement, sound, non-competitive games and more into a well codified and substantiated, low-cost methodology that’s grounded in science and cognitive psychology. This is Laughter Yoga 2.0.
You can always choose to laugh, and it is a game changer when you do.
What we advocate is a particular form of laughter that is neither cynical, sarcastic, bitter nor defiant but about laughing “with” and never “at” (A). We use no jokes or comedy, and don’t even try to be or look funny. This is not about ignoring the challenges you may face in life, but fully embracing them so that you can transmute them. We are actors in the fields of human potential and wellness, and laughter is our most powerful tool.
Many people who have never had this experience often have conceptually a hard time with it, and rightfully so. We live in a world where very few things can make people laugh, while hundreds can make them frown, howl and cry. It is common to forget about the many blessings laughter has to offer when stress and adversity knock at the door. “Why should we laugh?” they say. “It doesn’t pay the bills.” Society teaches that problems are serious and need to be addressed seriously. Laughter, on the other hand, is often perceived as frivolous and only relevant in its (rare) “proper” time and place.
I know that viewpoint very well. It was mine for a long time and I was good at it: it almost killed me. Laughter in my life was for entertainment, which is a different way of saying that I hardly ever laughed. Entertainment has no real value and is the first thing to go when times get rough.
There is a different viewpoint on laughter in the house of life, equally valid and easily verifiable.
I now experience it as a tool, a highly valuable, practical and enjoyable means to a desirable end where inner tensions are transformed into inner harmony. Laughing in the face of adversity will not pay your bills, but it will teach you equanimity. It is not about strength but courage, because it’s about letting go. Only one who knows how to create a balance between the favorable and unfavorable situations can maintain mental balance and composure. Life is not always fun, but it certainly is much more fun with laughter than without.
Choosing to laugh is a game changer, because it puts you in the hot seat and takes away all the hiding places. How you feel becomes your sole responsibility, and if you don’t like what you have then it’s a time for action, not complaints or surrender. Choosing to remain positive and be comfortable with your imperfections and the challenges in your life does not mean you have to be complacent about them. You should not. Laughing about them is a sign of maturity. It’s a political act, a declaration of freedom, a demonstration that we are not afraid, that we refuse to let fear, anger, guilt or resentment win and rule our lives. When you change, the world around you changes. When you feel good, you are more likely to address the challenges you have to face constructively and with a positive attitude (B).
Five Key Concepts
No humor required: body-mind vs mind-body
You do not need to be happy or have a sense of humor to laugh.
There is nothing funny about Laughter (Yoga) Wellness (and even less silly or childish for that matter.) This is fun. It is not for the benefit of others but your own. Appreciate the difference: choosing to laugh is a physical activity that does not require the mind. Here what you think and feel before you start a laughter session, as well as what other people think are of no importance or value. Engage in the practice of simulated laughter, faking it as much as you need to, and if you put a minimum of enthusiasm into it your inner chemistry (and therefore your thoughts) will all start to shift within about 10 minutes (not to mention the impact this will have on your immune system). This is because laughter forces us slowly but surely into present-moment awareness, and you cannot define who you are and who you are not, what you can or can’t do, when you have no past and no future. “Now” is a space of infinite potential where everything is new and therefore void of a negative charge. You need to think harder if you want to complain, be stressed or afraid when you physically feel good inside.
This is exercise, not comedy. Fake is fine.
Just do it: motions create emotions
Yes everything starts in the mind (C), but no this is not a one-way only relationship. There is a complex reciprocal interaction between the body and the mind and what happens in one reflects in the other. If you change the quality of your thoughts, you will feel a change in body behavior. Conversely, if you bring a change in your body behavior you will experience a change of your mental state. The way you move can completely transform the way you feel. Engage your body through the physiology of joy with an open-mind and enthusiasm and you will create that very chemistry within minutes.
Importance of emotional expression
In the face of powerful life experiences that evoke fear, worry, grief, anger, and/or sadness, we often rush to soothe these emotions by severely limiting their expression. This behavior is reinforced by a strong unspoken rule in the society of adults which says that you cannot, should not, must not express intense emotions in public, and even less still if it is with people you don’t know.
Unfortunately humans are feelings machines, and the flux of emotions is not always easy to control. In daily life, people resist as much as they possibly can the urge to laugh, cry, scream, or otherwise be emotional until they can’t anymore. Emotions are illogical, irrational, and unreasonable. When you have too many of them, they just come out. Imagine a pressure cooker with building pressure inside. At some point, no matter how strong the metal is, this device will get damaged or explode if the pressure inside keeps building.
It’s the same phenomenon with humans. It has long been recognized that inhibiting the expression of emotions has a negative impact on both physical and psychological health. Studies have shown that emotional repression is linked to higher reports of medical problems such as chronic pain, immune dysfunction, and psychiatric problems.
We must find ways to express our emotions constructively, and Laughter (Yoga) Wellness is one of them because it creates a safe and joyful forum of expression where people can vocalize tension without having to verbalize anything. Laughter Wellness in particular is designed to help people take ownership of and transmute their negative emotions.
Importance of open-hearted, childlike play
Play is just as pivotal for adults as it is for kids. It’s vital for problem solving, creativity and relationships. It helps couples rekindle their relationship and explore other forms of emotional intimacy. It can even facilitate deep connections between strangers and cultivate healing.
Laughter Yoga encourages childlike behaviors to help its practitioners get over their inhibitions and actually loosen up. These include producing funny sounds by swiveling the tongue inside the mouth, tapping air-filled cheeks, laughing like a child and talking Gibberish (a made up language that has no meaning).
Laughter Wellness is more conventional on the disinhibition scale and encourages instead non-competitive playful activities and open-hearted childlike behaviors that build and boost one’s self-image, and it adds the subtle awareness of timing to this. You will discover very quickly when you start teaching this type of activity that people will not lose all their inhibitions and start to play right away to the level you would like, just because you ask. It can’t be repeated often enough: don’t get too weird too fast. There is value in learning to start gently and slowly build up the “joy” momentum. We teach you how in three simple steps. Miss them and run the very real risk of having participants judge what they do instead of simply experiencing it.
You can change. There is always hope.
Everything you have learned can be unlearned. Every behavior that does not serve you anymore can be shed. You can retrain yourself from negative into positive. You can change. There is always hope, and that’s not just an opinion.
All that’s necessary is practice, patience, and perseverance.
The glass of life will always be somewhat half full and empty. This is the nature of duality.
Laughter (Yoga) Wellness is a practice that will teach you to first see what works before what doesn’t work, and leave you with one single question that is also a constant call to action: “what can I do now with a smile?” Me, not you. Do, not try. Now, not later. With a positive attitude. (D)
It will train you to change your mental map, release negative thoughts and emotions, and in effect get in touch with your spiritual nature. The experience of being able to genuinely laugh when you want to, simply because you want to, creates an inner pool of attraction for a different way to be in the world and how to react to its many challenges. It won’t make you laugh all the time, but it will create the awareness that you always have that option.
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(C) Yoga science teaches that the physical body , including the brain, is a product of consciousness – not the other way around, as is held by some Western theorists. Yoga points out, however, that in man’s usual state of consciousness the mind is so identified with the physical body that biochemical changes have a tremendous influence on the mind, which in turn reacts on the body through the mediums of the endocrine and nervous system. This complex reciprocal interaction between the body and the mind is the major factor in man’s physical and mental health.
(D) See Happiness Isnowhere