“Tell me angrily that I’m a fool,” asks me, baring his gums in a smile, a middle-aged man in a T-shirt with the inscription “Laughing yoga” Oleg, a laughter coach.
I’m talking. Screaming at me, spitting saliva: “You’re a fool!”
“Now tell me that I’m a fool, but kindly, with a smile.”
“Thank you,” he smiles back, “for us, a “fool” is a compliment, because all creators are fools.
Once I did yoga with a well-known throughout Moscow Vladimir Chursin, he, with a medical education, likes to “rule” students in asanas – the pain is unbearable, but useful. In order not to scream in horror, everyone laughs during this execution. I imagined laughter yoga as something similar – to stand like a dog face down and neigh. But what was my surprise when, having arrived at the lesson a little earlier, I found myself in the center of self-knowledge on Baumanskaya (Knowledge House of the Knowledge society), where there were no rugs, and on the board with a marker was written: “Life management training (Already )”.
Terrified, I ask the administrator what awaits me. She smiles mysteriously – be patient and you will see everything.
I meet Eva, she is also not in sportswear. She says that she fell in love with laughteryoga deeply – she got hooked on such a dose of endorphins, lives from class to class, and no sex with alcohol can save and cannot be compared. And I got into the movement by accident – I was looking for where to spend my vacation alone, I accidentally ended up in the “House of Joy” in Sochi, where they laughed for two hours in the morning and in the evening. At first she was terrified, but then she wiped herself off.
I have never heard of a laughing yogi – that they stretch in hammocks, I knew that they squirm on a bikram in the heat – too, for some reason I even imagined that there is yoga with pets in the middle of the river on stand-up surfers. As for laughter, no.
There are six people in my class – four instructors who replace each other, and two neophytes – me and Eva. The pioneer of the movement Anton Bizyaev (he is a designer in civilian life) tells how it all began with him:
– In 1995, a young Indian doctor, Madan Kataria, read a lot of articles about the benefits of laughter and decided to test these theses in practice in the simplest way – to gather in the park and laugh every day. There were several participants ready to laugh even in an unfamiliar company. They stood in a circle and told jokes to each other. After a few meetings, the new jokes were over. And someone even considered what had already been said obscene and, offended, left the health meeting. Crisis has come!
For the European consciousness, the impasse would be impassable. But Madan simply offered to laugh without jokes. So what? And it turned out that yes – it is enough to imitate laughter in the first few minutes by an effort of will – and the fire of general laughter flares up. And the participants also flare up.
Continuing to practice laughter therapy meetings, Kataria, with the assistance of his wife (and part-time yoga instructor) Maduri, combined laughter exercises with the wisdom of yoga, elements of pranayama and dance movement therapy. As a result, the offspring was called “yoga of laughter” (hasya yoga, haha yoga).
Starting with a few people in a Bombay park, the laughter yoga movement has grown. And now laughter yoga is represented in 107 countries, thousands of clubs have been opened, in which millions of adherents are engaged.
How did I get interested in laughter practitioners? Having burned out at work as a glossy designer, I was suffering from a midlife crisis. I decided that I would lie on the couch and do only what I definitely want at the moment. Infantile, of course, behavior, but in 2012 it never occurred to me to turn to a psychologist. After six months of such practice, I thought that if I wanted to work with someone, then with whom. To really want it! To no doubt! And I remembered that at the Zhiznigrad festival I participated in a collective laughter practice. Yes, my soul agreed to this. You can get up from the sofa.
Next, I explored the few forms of laughter therapy that exist. And, choosing between esoteric practices, hospital clowns and pop humor, he came to the scientific and kind movement of laughter yoga.
Anton takes off his shoes, changes into warm socks and rubber slippers – so, he says, the effect is much more noticeable.
Since 2008, there are two clubs in Moscow. One was made by Anton, and the second – by the same Oleg the “fool” – having been around the world, already knowing about the laughter yogi, he was also carried away by the movement of round dances, and then put it together – all just to awaken the inner child.
Although I came to the class voluntarily (as far as possible) and sincerely wanted to try it, at first I bulged my eyes in horror when others did the warm-up exercises. It’s very hard to take and force yourself to cackle in an American way – as is customary in local sitcoms, with a debilitating loud whinny.
These yogis believe that laughter is the same physical effort as running or waving your arms, it has nothing to do with intellectual background. And this works because when one person laughs, the mirror neurons of others fire — the effect of a yawn in a crowded place, when everyone starts to starve too.
At the same time, many experts say the opposite: facial expressions in the process of sobbing and laughter work approximately the same way and give signals to the brain that are still associated with the intellectual load of the process. So, for example, many laughing people develop what is generally called grief wrinkles. This is what I faced: just like that, tired, I could only laugh nervously, in horror, but what I tried to put into a smile and “ha-ha-ha”, rather at some point became a woman’s whining. And here it is, the horror and important discovery of my laughter practice: it’s impossible to laugh just like that – I sincerely stood and did not understand which facial muscles and how to strain so that no grin and no soundless cry came out.
In classical yoga there is a respiratory component of pranayama – something that looks like Strelnikova’s breathing exercises, which many remember from the time of physical education in kindergarten. And yoga-laughter is by and large the same thing – at some point you suffocate, cursing all the smoked cigarettes. As a result, the truth is easier to breathe – all the excess comes out.
After a warm-up, when it was necessary to laugh in different intonations, imagining something (for example, we imagined a block of problems that collapses first into small cobblestones, then into stones, and then completely turns into dust), we moved on to exercises that interspersed with chants: “Ha-ha! Good! Good! Ha ha! The Best Day! The Best Day!” – at such moments, I realized with horror that, it seems, I had become part of the “Business Youth”. What did we do? Allegedly, they drove cars, turned each other on like puppeteers played toys, played in pairs in a stream, launched invisible pancakes and snowballs through the window – all to the accompaniment of laughter.
At the end, the lights went out in the hall. How then I deeply understood the meaning of the phrase “keep face” – finally, it was possible not to grin. All the laughing people sat in a circle and danced in the previously agreed way to a song with extraordinary words “The Universe loves you, the Universe loves me, the Universe loves us – the Universe is inside us.” I had to hug myself with my hands, then (mother, I’m sorry!) Send “rays of goodness” to neighbors, then hug the whole world.
Two hours are over. All participants torture me about their impressions and talk about their adoration of what happened. I confess that at first I was in desperate horror, and then tried to do something. What did I feel in the end? Calmness and impotence – the batteries neatly sat down. Oleg told me about this at the beginning, asking how to express anger in order to throw it off; I answered that you can shout, leave something, break something. And in fact, two hours in a different form, of course, but that’s exactly what happened – just an outburst of emotions; if not saved by laughter, then she went berserk.
I can’t say that laughteryoga brought any pleasure, rather, I was unconditionally dumbfounded. Not even by the practice itself, but by the belief in it of adults – those, apparently, who, at a respectable age, go to a theater studio and to vocals, those who, in the years immemorial, visited the semi-basement, where they gave out color booklets about self-knowledge. All to feed the inner child.
I was pestered with talk about the importance of being naughty and unraveling the inner child all this time and afterwards as I settled down and digested the material. But I don’t want to neigh like a regimental mare, I want to be an adult and laugh at intellectual puns and subtle passages of neat wordplay. For example, not laughteryogi, but laughter*yoga.