Laughter is contagious when you laugh in a group but what can you do when you’re on your own?
Laughter Yoga’s founder Dr Madan Kataria challenges his teacher/trainers (me included) to laugh alone every day. He sets a 40-day challenge for us: creating a new habit that, over that period, beds down new neural pathways into our subconscious. Having thought about the rural women I workshopped with last weekend who are often one their own, I’m sharing a few exercises and thoughts to encourage people like them to laugh out loud alone.
First, a recap. Laughter Yoga is an exercise regimen combining intentional laughter and breathing exercises.
Remember the 4 key elements of Laughter Yoga: clapping, breathing, playfulness and laughter exercises.
Start with 10 minutes, work up to 15 gradually, combining laughter and breaths.
A few tips
I find laughing first up in the morning sets a great tone for the day.
Some people find it easier to laugh alone in front of the mirror. Try it: it may work for you. (I don’t.)
If you are self-conscious about people hearing you, turn the volume off or down! The silent laugh is one of my favourites at any time. Also remember that your laugh is your laugh.
Whenever you laugh alone, open your mouth a bit wider to enable laughter to flow from the belly. The goal is to engage the diaphragm.
Finally, these exercises can also be done seated. If you’re new to exercise, it’s best to seek medical advice first. Listen to your body: you don’t want to hurt yourself.
Start with a warm up ‘Ho Ho Ha Ha’
Ideally standing, say ‘ho, ho’ and push your hands down. Say ‘ha,ha’ as you push your hands forward from the chest. Repeat slowly swaying the body and alternating the hand actions left and right. Speed up the ‘Ho ho, ha, ha’ chant and action.
(You could also do this clapping).
Repeat 4-6 times.
Raise your arms above your head, inhale and hold your breath for 3-5 seconds. Then slowly bend your body from the waist, let your arms dangle, and exhale saying “haaaaaaaaa” and continue to laugh.
Alternate the breath and the exercise and reward yourself after each set with the playful cry: Very good, very good, YAY!
Clap, as you simultaneously say, ‘very good twice, and thumbs up point at yourself as you exclaim ‘yay!’
Heather Joy’s favourite 5 laugh alone exercises
1. One metre laugh (as taught by Dr Kataria)
Stand with feet slightly apart, both hands stretched out to the left. Slide the fingers of the right hand over the left arm to the elbow while saying ‘Aeeeeeeeee’. Continue sliding the fingers across the chest to the right shoulder, saying ‘Aeeeeee’. Uncurl the right arm so that both arms are full outstretched, tilt your head back and laugh heartily, from the belly. Repeat for the right side. Do three times each side.
I always feel a wonderful sense of freedom when in this outstretched pose.
2. Mental floss laugh
Imagine that you have wrapped a thread of dental floss between your fingers. Now imagine threading the floss between your ears to clear out the ‘stinking thinking’ that can build up, like dental plaque, in the mind. Jiggle it around, to and fro, while laughing. Make it thorough! Then throw the ‘floss’ and the worries away.
3. Laughter cream
Take an imaginary jar of lotion, scoop a dollop out and ‘rub’ it into your skin —arms, face, legs, belly, back, ears—and laugh.
4. Aloha laugh (as taught by Dr Kataria)
This play on the Hawaiian greeting provides a lovely stretch. If you have back issues or get dizzy, you may want to do it lying on the bed – like a big waking stretch – or skip entirely. Remember, no pain and no new injuries: only ever work within your abilities.
Raise your arms above your head, chin up and mouth wide , breathe out ‘Alooooo’. Let it crescendo. Drop the arms and bend forward as you laugh out the ‘HaaaaaHaaaaHaaaaaaaaaaaa’. Big breath in and repeat 3 times.
5. Silent laughter
Keep your mouth wide open and laugh without the sound. Imagine you are in a library or church, where it would be really inappropriate to burst out laughing. Try with your mouth closed too.
Complete your session with some slow mindful breathing.
You’ve laughed for no reason, and alone. Your body and mind thank you. Have a great day!
(c) 2016 Heather Grant-Campbell aka Heather Joy