Newest Yoga Offshoot: Laughter Yoga

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

The New York Times is reporting on a new offshoot of yoga that involves laughing. Its creator, Vishwa Prakash, says that by beginning the motions of laughing, you induce the emotions of laughing - and that this practice can be restorative to the mind and body. "I'm not a comedian," Prakash says. "I'm a very serious guy. I'm a healer."

Laughter yoga classes don't involve telling jokes: they involve group movements - one looks remarkably like the Hokey Pokey, in which the group forms a circle, holds hands, and rushes noisily into the center.

"We use yogic movements to induce laughter," says Prakash. There are also improvisation-style exercises: for example, the group imagines they've been given a big gift, and they ooh and aah over it. Then the class's teacher tells them that they've now dropped it. They shriek and throw their hands in the air as the imaginary present crashes to the ground - which makes them all laugh. Other exercises involve clapping and chanting "Ha, ha, ho ho ho."

One devotee, artist Jean Messner, says that when she first came to laughter yoga, she'd been through cancer, in addition to being let go from her job of 19 years and having ended a relationship. "I didn't know how to laugh," she says.

But within a few minutes of entering the class, she was laughing - and she felt so much better for it. "If I spend a week without YogaLaugh, I feel it, and I crave it," says Beverly Schutzman, another participant in the classes. She has chronic back pain, and says laughter yoga classes help relieve it.

See the New York Times video and article on laughter yoga here.