A workout you can giggle through!
I love laughing. Everyone does ... probably. It feels good, it releases endorphins, it makes you feel like you snuck a little ab workout in during the day. I laugh whenever I get the chance to. When someone tells a joke? Duh. When someone falls down? Unfortunately. When I fall down? Of course! When about a gazillion things have gone wrong and I want to cry, but it'd just be better for all of us if I laugh like an insane person? Yeah, then, too.
There's always a good reason to laugh! A laughter pinwheel at RVA Laugh Club. Courtesy of facebook.com
And working out is the best time to laugh! A long run has never felt so great when you can gather with your friends, swap stories, and cackle through the miles. It's endorphins on top of endorphins! I'd like to take this moment to point out that not everyone agrees with laughing while working out. Some people take their exercise extremely seriously! And to that, I say, fine! Be serious! But let us have our fun too! (Once on my cross-country team in high school, a teammate was whistling during planks and the team captain yelled at him to stop, at which point, I yelled out "NO HAPPINESS!" The rest of the team and I dissolved into giggles. We opted for an extra dose of endorphins that day.)
So when I heard that the Deale Library, an Anne Arundel County Public Library branch, was hosting Laughter Yoga on Thursday, I had to google to see if it was a real thing. And guess what! IT IS!
Now, this is yoga I can get into. If I'm being honest, I really appreciate yoga, and that's about as far as I can go with it. I think it does great things for your muscles, your bones, your posture. Whenever I see someone who is super into yoga, I'm always amazed by how healthy and in-shape they are. But I've personally never been able to get into it. It seems so serious. There's all this focus on quieting your mind, deep breathing, concentration, internal stillness. And that's just a recipe for me to get the giggles. (This is 100 percent true. It's happened almost every time I've taken a yoga class.)
Courtesy of pexels.com
So what is laughter yoga?
According to Laughter Yoga University, it's "a revolutionary idea" that takes advantage of the fact that the body can't tell the difference between fake and real laughing. The event on the Anne Arundel Public Library page describes the exercise routine like this: "we clap, breathe, laugh, and play while connecting with others. No yoga mats, flexibility, or yoga experience required; just bring a positive attitude and a bottle of water!" Sounds good to me.
In all seriousness, there's science behind it, too. Scientists have found that laughter reduces chemicals in your brain that can cause stress and can also bring down your blood pressure! Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist, spent 18 years studying the health benefits attached to laughing and she says that laughter can bring down your body's overall production of cortisol, a yucky hormone responsible for stress, weight gain, and memory loss if produced in excess.
Courtesy of laughteryoga.org
Laughter has also been shown to improve circulation, perk up the immune system, and cut down on pain. And it's not just yogis and yoga-enthusiasts saying this! A psychiatrist named William Fry from Stanford conducted several studies looking into the effects of "mirthful laughter." and it sounds like he's in favor!
What to Expect
So what happens exactly at one of these laughter yoga workouts? There's a lot of clapping and chanting and literally laughing in each other's faces. You're encouraged to fake it if you can't do it for real, but let's be honest: the whole thing sounds so ridiculous, how could you not laugh for real? There's some meditation thrown in at the end, but it sounds like laughing your way through it is strongly encouraged, so I think I'll be good.
Have you ever tried laughter yoga? Or maybe you've just laughed so hard your abs hurt? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.