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Are you having

A LAUGH?

WORDS: MELANIE HANCILL PHOTOS: ROBB COLEMAN

We sent our Mel to check out a strange but fun way to destress and put a smile on your face…

Laughter yoga. Sounds odd starts as pretend laughter becomes but it’s a type of class just real and natural. like pilates or aerobics. The That’s all very well, but I still felt idea began 15 years ago apprehensive standing in a room and there are more than 6,000 full of strangers and laughing at, laughter clubs in 65 countries. well… nothing. But watching how What’s it all about? Well, you know easily the other people in the group Mel with how wonderful you feel after a good activated their chuckle muscles, laughter giggle with friends? That’s partly I soon got the hang of it. leader because when we laugh we take We raced around the room Jennifer in more oxygen. This increases our mimicking everyday frustrations – circulation and boosts our immune like traffic jams and arguments – but system. And it’s also because replacing any anger with different Laughing is laughter makes the body release forms of laughter. You could say ‘ho hard work happy hormones, endorphins, which ho ho’, ‘hee hee hee’ or ‘ha ha ha.’ reduce our stress levels and ward off We played childlike games. anxiety and depression. Catching a ball and shouting out But in today’s troubled world it what makes us happy. gets harder to find things (I’ve never been good to laugh about. Cheerful at answering questions Take a bow children laugh more than on the spot –the only 400 times a day – gloomier thing I could think of was grown-ups only 12 times. watching X-Men films!) else in the group was laughing with So, a little hesitantly, Then we took it in me. (Or was it at me? Hmm…) I joined in Jennifer turns to fish from an In between each exercise we did Johnson’s laughter class in imaginary ‘laughter lake’ yogic breathing exercises to get the Buckhurst Hill, Essex. followed by wearing oxygen flowing around our bodies. Jennifer a laughter mask – a Although I found some of the explained how Venetian-style exercises a little embarrassing, the sessions work. carnival mask. I everyone else seemed to be having In the group ‘The exercises wasn’t too keen a great time. In between the giggles, are conducted on laughing on my bellows and guffaws, I asked some using child-like own in front of the of the class how it made them feel. playfulness and rest of the group but Julian James, 30, from eye contact. I must have been Woodford, Essex, This allows us doing something told me: ‘It’s a way to to disconnect right as everyone release the stresses our laughter from of the day. The having a reason to laugh, and promotes laughing unconditionally n Don’t take life too seriously. When we can laugh at our without any reason.’ situation, we feel a sense of relief. The concept was inspired by n They say it takes three weeks to create a new cardiologist Dr Madan Kataria in habit. Laugh every day – even if you have to fake 1995 after he discovered that in it – until it becomes natural. physical terms the body gets the n Recall an occasion when you found same benefit from pretend or real something so hilarious, the laughter built up laughter, as it can’t tell the difference. inside you until it was impossible not to laugh. Laughter yoga builds on the n Email jennifer@laughterworkout.co.uk to fact that in any group of people, receive more free laughter tips. laughing is contagious. So what

Laughter tips

12 take it Easy

Stand-up comedy?

environment is so uplifting and I always leave the class feeling much more enlivened.’ Carol Darvell, 53, from Enfield, said: ‘Some people meditate or do yoga to relax, but if you like doing activities with other people then this class is great – it always cheers me up. The more people who come, the more fun it gets.’ The class ended with 10 minutes of relaxation to calm the body after all the hard work laughing. Jennifer talked us through a calming scene as we lay on yoga mats, and by the time we were finished I found that my woes really had drained away. Amazing. So it’s true what they say… laughter really is the best medicine. l For more info, visit www.laughter workout.co.uk or call 020 8508 2134.

Mel in her laughter mask


Sunday Magazine