I owe an apology to some of the young women in my family for being a little critical of their favoured low slung hipster jeans.
Girls, you’ve been looking after your health and I, the original ‘Harry Highpants’, have been cutting my life short because I’ve not allowed myself to breathe properly.
The word, according to the Giggling Guru, Laughter Yoga founder Dr Madan Kataria, is that waisted skirts and belted trousers stop us from full diaphragmatic breathing.
This was one of my many ‘aha’ moments at Laughter Yoga teacher training in Bangalore recently, hence sharing this knowledge of the breath here, now.
Laughter exercises are interspersed with deep breathing exercises throughout Laughter Yoga to help flush the lungs as well as bring physical and mental relaxation.
Of course I had noticed short rapid breathing when frightened or seriously over-stretched with anxiety, just as I had naturally sought long slow breaths when seeking calmness or simply feeling joyful and comfortable in my environment. I hadn’t truly understood the science behind the breath.
The main characteristic of yogic breathing is that exhalation is longer than inhalation. This rids the lungs of residual air which is then replaced by fresh oxygen.
Normally we use just 25% of our total lung capacity.
The remaining 75% holds onto old stale air.
Of course we can’t totally empty our lungs—they would collapse!— but we can actively engage the diaphragm and abdominal muscles to flush out more carbon dioxide.
Here’s a Laughter Yoga exercise to try.
Breathe in deeply and hold that breath for a slow count of three. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat.
Now breathe in again, deeply, and hold that breath. This time, instead of simply breathing it out, laugh it out with ‘hahaha’ as long as you can.
That explosive laugh has just squeezed out more carbon dioxide than a regular exhalation.
Breathing is as natural as laughing: seriously it’s time we learned to correct our ways with both. Our alertness, creativity and energy rely on it!
Now excuse me: I’m off to buy some jeans, muffin-top and all 😉
(c) Heather Grant-Campbell aka Heather Joy, 2016