TEE HEE. Hardyharhar. Bahahahahahaha. *snort snort*.
Whatever your laugh sounds like, betcha it feels good—inside and out. Laughing relieves stress, stimulates organs, increases endorphins and improves the immune system. No joke, it’s science!
But it can be hard to keep up the healthy chuckles, especially when life isn’t feeling all that funny. These are trying times for many, and videos of cats using the potty only go so far.
“Did you know kids laugh about four hundred times a day, and adults only laugh about fifteen?” asks yoga teacher Ann Carroll. “We lost a few hundred laughs along the way when we grew up.”
Those seeking increased and more intentional giggles might want to check out Carroll’s Laughing Meditation Workshop this Sunday, Feb. 12 at Savannah Yoga Center. She’s offered the cackle contemplation class before, but recently decided to put it on SYC’s monthly schedule for 2017. The next workshop is March 25, followed by April 2, May 14, June 11, July 16, Aug. 13, Sept. 17, Oct. 8, November 12 and December 3.
“I used to just do it sporadically, during the holidays, when people are under a lot of stress, but I think with everything going on in the world right now, we all need the release,” says the yogi, who holds a teaching certification in the technique.
“We need reminders that life doesn’t have to be so serious, even in times of stress.”
The 30-minute workshops begin with everyone lying on their backs, heads pointed to the middle of the circle, with full use of mats, blankets and other yoga props to get comfy. After a few opening Om chants, it’s time get chortling (or snickering, or tittering, doesn’t matter, you do you!) for 15 straight minutes. The idea is to witness emotions and stay with the practice.
If you aren’t feeling the mirth, fake it. Research shows that pretend laughter has the same physiological benefits as the real thing and can turn into genuine guffaws once you get started. Other studies shows that joyful laughter and meditation have similar positive effects on the brain, so perhaps doing both at once brings double the benefits (*not based on any science at all, but hey, lighten up!)
There are some ground rules: No tickling! Respect others’ space and privacy, though the occasional bump to your neighbor while writhing with glee may be excused.
Also, no judgment. If the guy next to you sounds like a honking donkey, accept it as an opportunity to let your inner hysterical hyena flow.
The workshop ends with ten minutes of relaxed silence and deep breathing, though Carroll recognizes that it can be hard to settle down after all that hilarity. Often other emotions can surface that need to be released during the session.
“Sometimes people laugh so hard they cry, and that’s OK, too,” she counsels.
“This is a safe space.”
Carroll was first introduced to laughter meditation during her yoga training in 2001, when the shock of 9/11 was still fresh.
“It felt auspicious that I was coming out of the ashram right as so many people needed peace. Now seems like another one of those times.”
She leads students in a gentle form known as Integral Yoga and is deeply influenced by the unifying spirituality of its founder Swami Satchidananda—“The guy who said the opening prayer for Woodstock,” she reminds with merry smile.
In addition to teaching yoga at various studios around the city as well as seasonally on Tybee Island’s North Beach, Carroll also teaches childbirth education and serves as a doula to support mothers giving birth. In between she can often be found sitting on her meditation cushion, getting lots of practice for her upcoming workshops.
“I often think someone is going to walk by and think I’ve lost my mind,” she says with an easy chuckle. “But then that just makes me laugh even harder!”