“Why so serious?”
line from movie character The Joker in The Dark Knight
Hasyaya Yoga: The Art of Laughing
In the 1990s, Indian Physician Madan Kataria’s practice of health through laughter was the beginning of a unique and modern twist on yoga. Remember that while most of us think of yoga in the vein of asanas and breathing techniques followed by still meditation, the original definition of yoga is that it is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline that transforms the body and mind.
The idea behind Hasyaya Yoga in line with this principle is that laughter is easily stimulated in a group when combined with eye contact, “childlike playfulness” and exercises, which can very quickly turn forced giggles into genuine hee-haws and chuckles—and for those who are familiar with Pranayama breath practices, a good guffaw results in deep breathing that causes the diaphragm to expand.
Better breathing and a happy, positive environment with the support of a group of people helps take your mind off the all-too serious hustle and bustle of life we are accustomed to, as well as returning us to the pure, beginner’s mind without judgment just like a child has. Students of laughing yoga use breathing exercises, acting and visualizing, and through a shared experience of playfulness and laughter, improve your social skills through bonding with others in an inherently and unashamedly silly practice.
The Story of Rule Number Six: A Reminder for Us All
Two ministers were deep in discussion before a woman came into the room to speak to the first minister. She was furious and demanded the first minister drop everything he was doing to give her the time she felt entitled to with him.
The first minister simply paused briefly and told her, “Kindly remember Rule Number Six, please.”
The woman suddenly became calm and tranquil, apologized for her outburst, thanked him for the reminder, and left. Soon enough, another man came through the door and again, full of sound and fury, threw a fit and demanded a moment of time from the first minister’s busy schedule.
Again, the minister, unmoved, calmly stated, “Kindly remember Rule Number Six, please.”
The man was also instantly placated, bowed, apologized, and left with a Zen-like peace; the storm cloud that hung over his head when he first came in was now like a bright rainbow beaming from his eyes.
The second minister then asked, “Hey, that’s really good stuff! What’s this ‘Rule Number Six’?”
The first minister replied, “Oh, it’s simple really. It just says, ‘Don’t take yourself so goddam seriously.’”
The second minister then asked, “What are the other rules?”
“There are no other rules”, the first minister replied.
LOL: Living Out Love
The mark of a mature person is someone who can not only take a joke, but also be able to laugh at himself or herself and the absurdity that is inherent in the human condition. As the above story illustrates, all too often we are consumed by our self-importance and entitlement, and thus we forget both our place as mere mortals in the universe and our ability to relate to others as fellow human beings who share the same frustration sitting in traffic and dealing with stress.
By undergoing a session of laughing yoga with friends or strangers, you’ll soon find that not only are you remembering to literally take a breath and take yourself a little less seriously, but that if we all are suffering together, we can also laugh together and relate positively so that we can not only be reminded that we are all human, but allow ourselves to love one another and ourselves.
A few beginning exercises can be found here at the American School of Laughter Yoga. Try them out and see what you might do with a few laughs in daily life and in yoga.