The Park District here advertises free yoga in one of our most beautiful parks each Saturday morning at nine during the summer months. I enjoy doing yoga, and the word "free" always screams my name, so this activity had been on my bucket list for the past couple years since they first started offering it.
A few weekends ago, I finally had no distractions and nothing keeping me from digging out my yoga mat from the back of a closet, dousing myself with mosquito repellent and heading to the park. I thought I would be one of a handful of people doing yoga in the park, but the leader said that on a given Saturday, approximately 75 men and women of all ages, some even with their children, show up to bend and stretch.
But, like many of the participants, I was caught by surprise when the leader stated that this Saturday would be different as we would be doing "laughter yoga." Most of us looked puzzled and commented to each other that we really didn't know what that was.
For the first half hour or so we didn't even need our mats. We all got into a sloppy looking circle, some people barefoot, others wearing socks and shoes, and were guided through a bunch of different movements and exercises which involved laughing, or at least forcing ourselves to feign laughter.
The instructor told us that whether laughter is real or forced, it is good for the core muscles and for emotional well-being. As an occupational therapist that has done yoga as well as various types of aerobic and anaerobic exercise, I could see where this would be true. The last half hour was done while lying supine on our mats with a sort of meditation.
Honestly, I didn't feel like I got much of a workout, but I did find laughter yoga to be fun and it did in fact put me in a better head space than the grumpy mood (for no particular reason) that started my day. So when I returned home, curious, I searched online for "laughter yoga" and sure enough, it is a real practice; Laughter Yoga International (http://www.laughteryoga.org/) has a rather impressive website with all sorts of opportunities for finding classes and events, and even training to become a certified instructor.
So, of course, I am curious. In an article that I wrote for this blog about a year and a half ago about Yoga and OT, I discovered that many occupational therapy practitioners utilize yoga or components of yoga and its poses and positions in clinical settings, be it in physical or mental rehab.
But what about laughter yoga? It seems to be an activity that can be done either indoors or outside. Are there any practitioners out there using laughter yoga in combination with OT treatments? I am eager to hear about your experience.