If you're happy and you know it -- clap your hands! That's more than the refrain of a popular children's song. It's also how every session of laughter yoga gets started. Whether they start off happy or not, people begin a laughter yoga practice by rhythmically clapping their hands together. No golf claps, please -- laughter yoga requires full finger-on-finger and palm-on-palm contact, which is believed to increase energy levels by stimulating pressure points [source: Gendry]. While clapping, participants chant "Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha!" This activates the diaphragm and prepares the body to breathe deeply throughout the practice.
During the clapping and chanting warm-up, people may begin dancing or speaking in gibberish. No words are allowed during laughter yoga, except by the instructor. Rather, gibberish is used to lower inhibitions and to bring participants back to a more childlike state. Since children often laugh for no reason at all, they're a good model for laughter yoga technique.
After warming up, laughter yoga instructors may lead participants through some deep breathing and stretching exercises, but the heart of the laughter yoga technique is laughter exercise. Throughout the exercises, it's important to make eye contact with other participants; this keeps you present. Here are few laughter exercises that participants might practice:
- Greeting laughter: Participants walk around the room and greet one another with a hearty laugh.
- Gradient laughter: Participants begin by smiling, then allow themselves to chuckle, increasing the laughter by degrees until a peak of loud belly laughter fills the room; the process is then reversed so that everyone ends smiling.
- Driving laughter: Participants pretend they are driving a car and laugh.
- Argument laughter: Participants argue with one another, but rather than yelling, they laugh.
- Cell phone laughter: Participants hold an imaginary cell phone and laugh into it; they may pass the phone to other participants or make funny gestures about their phone call to other participants.
- Heart laughter: Participants hold hands or hug as they laugh together.
Laughter yoga sessions typically end with a laughter meditation. During this time, people breathe deeply and laugh when they feel like it. After a few minutes, instructors usually ask for the laughter to stop for another period of meditation, in which the body can come to a grounded and calm state. Who are these instructors that lead the laughing and meditation? Find out on the next page.