I walk into Plymouth Lund’s with trepidation. I’m not here for groceries—I’m here for Laughter Yoga. I don’t know what that means exactly. I head upstairs to the community room, where chairs are arranged in a circle and a few strangers are waiting, too.
A woman says, “Are you here to laugh with us?” I nod, shyly. “Come on in!” She grins as I find a seat. She introduces herself as Mary Anderson, owner of Yoga Studio in Plymouth and our fearless leader for the next 45 minutes.
Anderson explains that you don’t need a mat for laughter yoga. You don’t need an arsenal of jokes. You don’t even need a sense of humor. All you need is another person, eye contact and a willingness to fake it. I feel myself starting to relax. I can do all of that.
We begin with deep breathing, and Anderson explains the background of Laughter Yoga (started in India by Dr. Madan Kataria) and describes the numerous health benefits, both physical and mental. Then she urges us to jump right in, telling us to let out “a big, fat, fake, shoulder-shaking laugh on the exhale.”
It feels odd to laugh for no reason, but I shake my shoulders and let out a phony laugh. Making eye contact with different people around the room makes it easier, and I notice that everyone is willing to try. Is it a bit ridiculous? Well, sure. “It helps to look at the person who looks like they want to be here least,” Anderson says. It’s true. I glance over at one woman, gamely laughing, her eyebrows raised in skepticism.
Suddenly, my laughter feels unforced and rolls out genuinely. It’s silly, but it feels wonderful. I can feel myself unwinding and letting go of the petty stresses of my day.
Anderson offers exercises, and each member of the group gives an example. She asks us to pantomime a summertime activity and laugh about it in turn. Anderson starts out by pretending to eat a popsicle. We all pretend to eat the most hilarious popsicle we’ve ever had. Next, the lady across the way pretends to flip burgers on the grill. We all join in, flipping imaginary burgers at imaginary grills, holding our bellies and guffawing. My neighbor pretends to slap away mosquitoes on her deck. We all start swatting at invisible mosquitoes, giggling at something we usually find extremely annoying.
Afterwards, Anderson tells us that that’s the whole point. Laughter Yoga is a way to practice choosing joy over frustration. Who couldn’t use more practice with that?
Mary’s free Laughter Yoga Class is held from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month in Plymouth Lund’s community room. 3455 Vicksburg Lane N.; 763.557.8626.