This past weekend I attended a workshop introducing me to laughter yoga. I brought my yoga mat, thinking I would be doing downward facing dog while listening to a comedian or while watching something hilarious … well actually watching a group of people doing downward facing dog is rather hilarious all on its own. Anyways, that’s not what it was about.
Laughter yoga uses yoga breathing combined with group laughter and clapping activities to promote wellness. When we laugh, our brain releases endorphins, the feel good hormone. This combined with slow, deep breathing helps to release stress and oxygenate muscles, helping to relieve overall tension. And, the brain does not know the difference between real laughter and well-intentioned manufactured laughter. So even if you have to ‘fake it till you make it’, you still reap the benefits. Although in a room full of church women it didn’t take long for the laughter to be contagious, infectious and very real indeed!
Here are a couple of links to check out about laughter yoga.
So I got to thinking, as I always do, how might laughter yoga be helpful to musicians? And how might I include this in my practice routine, and in my teaching? Here’s what I came up with:
– Laughter engages deep diaphragmatic breathing and low abdominal breath support. Asking students to fake laugh helps show them what muscles to use for solid breath support.
– Smiling and laughter help to relax tense muscles in the face, jaw, neck, lips and tongue. Good news for diction, embouchure and articulation! You could combine with massage, chakras or meridian work.
– This kind of clapping awakens the body’s energy system by using acupressure points. Not only are you keeping the musical beat while regulating your heart beat, you are also helping your body balance its energy systems.
– Using breath as a centering technique could be further enhanced by thinking of a positive affirmation word to hold in your mind before the exhale. Breathe in for a count of 4, think of your affirmation and pause, and then exhale for a count of 6. Examples might include: release; free; gentle; powerful; connected; or calm depending on what you’d like to do in life or in music making that day.
But above all, learning to laugh at ourselves and giving ourselves permission not to take life so seriously is the best gift. Very often when we can release enough of the ‘stuff’ we worry about in order to get ourselves out of our own way, the path becomes clear. Laugh on, friends!