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Laughter Anyone?

By Julia Drake

Seriously, how often do we laugh? And would we do it more, if we knew how good it was for us?

Yesterday I took a meditation class at my local Yoga studio. Anything to tame that monkey mind of mine. Especially lately, with being newly wed, broke, and scared about the future, my mind has been running a mile a second, piercing me with daggers about my impending doom and failure to survive in this world. So when the meditation teacher said, "Bliss is our natural state," it felt good, but didn't help. In the following 35 minutes, when all students were asked to sit still, with their eyes closed, observing their thoughts without judgment or attachment, my thoughts attacked me like a blood-thirsty pack of lions, tearing my mind into pieces. I didn't know about the other students (since my eyes were closed), but I was sure that they were all indulging in their natural state of bliss.

But then, at the end of class, our teacher said: "And now, we laugh."

We...what?!! Everyone looked at her, perplexed. So she explained to us that a physician in India, named Dr. Madan Kataria, studied and discovered the myriad of benefits laughter has on our body, mind and spirit. He started Laughter Yoga, and employed laughing as a meditation technique. There are 6000 laughing clubs in the world, 350 in the US alone. That actually put a smile on my face.

The teacher asked us to all lie down in a circle, our heads toward each other. Just the anticipation of what was to come, trigged the first hushed smiles and chuckles, and by the time everyone had settled on the floor, the room vibrated with roars, twitters, and howls – a happy hodgepodge of sounds and voices. Throughout the ten minutes of laughing, I could feel my laughter drift between real and fake, but as I learned later, the whole concept of the laughter technique is based on the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter, so the physical and emotional benefits remain the same. Besides, it was just plain fun to laugh for no reason. I stepped out of the studio, refreshed and healed somehow, and I could tell, everyone felt the same by the conspiratorial smiles we exchanged before saying good-bye.

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