Because I ‘do’ laughter yoga and facilitate ‘laughter clubs’, people expect me to be an entertainer or comedian. The fact is, I’m not.
There’s a big difference between laughter clubs and comedy clubs. To begin with, let me ask you a question: have you ever not ‘got’ a joke? Others around you are laughing but not you…
Now, I laugh heartily pretty much daily. Sometimes because of comedy on TV, often because I put a humour lens on a situation and see the funny or ironic side but more often than not because I choose to practise laughter yoga. I can ROFL at the drop of a hat. But something happened earlier this month. I was at an event being emceed by an apparently well-known stand-up comedienne and I didn’t find her funny. EEK!
Had my sense of humour gone AWOL?
Not at all – and this is the absolute distinction between a comedy club and a laughter club.
Humour, comedy and jokes are intellectualised whereas the laughter we experience in Laughter Yoga is physically conjured.
- Humour often involves the mismatch between a concept and a situation, violations of social taboos or expectations, the resolution of tension, mocking or a sense of superiority. That joke may be hilarious within a culture or community, yet misunderstood or plain insulting in another.
- Some among us do not have the intellectual capacity to understand clever plays on words. Maybe English is not the first language. Sometimes there are cognitive impairments at play.
- Then there’s personal taste. I don’t find a string of F*#@ F%^# F^## amusing yet others do. Sure, I utter the odd expletive when absolutely frustrated but there’s nothing funny or witty intended.
Comedy clubs and comedy festivals rely on humour, jokes, punchlines. I’ve noted a fair amount of booze too at them.
What is a laughter club?
One the other hand, laughter clubs offer what I refer to as a ‘happy hour with a difference’.
Laughter clubs are community-based, volunteer-run groups practising Laughter Yoga that meet weekly, fortnightly or sometimes monthly.
In Australia, we often gather in parks to do our laughter exercises, just as people gather to do tai chi or boot camps. You may find us in libraries or halls too. We’re also online nowadays.
Together we intentionally activate our inner child’s playful spirit and allow ourselves to just laugh, combining the restorative breath of yoga with simulated laughter exercises.
Now this can take some doing. Years of programming to ‘be serious’ may need undoing. It can feel really weird. My best advice is to stick with it and you’re likely to feel the WOAH! No-one at a laughter club is laughing at you. Nobody will pick on you (another difference to a comedy club!). We’re all laughing together, encouraging one another. Allow yourself to look into the others’ eyes. There’s no judgement. We’re in the moment, unconditionally, joyfully laughing.
Yet another point of difference between a laughter club and a comedy club is price point: ours are usually very low cost, if not free! I consider mine, for example, a community giveback.
What is involved in Laughter Yoga?
Laughter Yoga, developed by a physician in India in the 1990s, is a process that enables you to laugh even if you don’t feel like it. It’s an aerobic exercise program incorporating clapping, chanting, playful movement, diaphragmatic breathwork and belly laughter.
To get scientifically proven health benefits, we need to laugh continuously for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Every laugh – as an exercise – extends beyond the natural titter to last 10, 20, as much as 30 seconds.
While initially laughter is intentional, most people find it flows freely within a few minutes and that subsequent exercises trigger more laughter.
What we also find is that with repeated practice we do see the lighter brighter side to situations more readily and laugh more, naturally.
So if you love to laugh but have relegated that raucous sound to when comedy festivals come to town, think again.
You’ll find a list of Queensland physical laughter clubs, online contacts and links to clubs elsewhere in Australia on this webpage.
HeatherJoy Campbell is a Queensland based laughter wellbeing professional facilitator and trainer who teaches others the skills to run a laughter club. She also hosts her own in Moreton Bay region.