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  1. What is Laughter Yoga and why would you do it?

    In 1995 Dr Madan Kataria started his first Laughter Yoga Clubs in Mumbai with just a handful of people.  There are now Laughter Clubs in over 72 countries and in some parts of India it even forms part of the schools’ curriculum. Dr Kataria discovered that by making laughter available to anyone without needing to depend on humour, jokes and comedy had some remarkable effects both physically and mentally.

    The first thing to note is that our bodies cannot tell whether laughter is genuine or faked, just so long as it is done with willingness or intent.  A LY session is a group exercise where we all make eye contact and adopt an attitude of childlike playfulness whilst engaging in laughter activities.  I know, it all sounds quite strange, right?  Remember, everyone at a workshop is there for…. A laugh!!  So even if the first few chuckles are fake, it doesn’t take long for the real laughter to flow.

    Laughter is good for you, and to start to reap the benefits we need to laugh continuously for 10-15 minutes (either naturally or faking it becomes real.) That laughter needs to be loud, deep and hearty, coming from the diaphragm and then it starts to:

    • laughter-775062_1920raise the blood oxygen levels
    • increase circulation
    • relax muscles
    • increase production of hormones to lower stress.
    • increase the breathing capacity (vital capacity)
    • stimulate the parasympathetic system
    • elevate the mood
    • strengthen the immune system
    • helps maintain emotional balance

    Laughter is an effective form of cardio workout!  And it burns calories (tests show about 400 per 30 minutes, but I have seen people clock up a lot more than that!) 

    There are benefits for specific health issues including:

    • reducing anxiety and panic attacks
    • reduced hypertension
    • possible improvements in diabetes
    • bronchitis and asthma management
    • reduction of trauma in cancer patients

    Laughter Yoga has also been connected to a reduction in the intensity of pain, particularly associated with arthritis, spondylitis and muscular spasm.  This is believed to be due to the release of natural opiates during a LY session.

    A typical Laughter Yoga session starts with an explanation of what’s about to happen, some warm ups and then laughter exercises. Each session can be adapted for its audience – so whether you are old or young, healthy or unwell, physically able or seated, you can still join in.  This is the part where the eye contact is encouraged, and we start to play and laugh.

    When we have laughed enough, we then laugh some more – but in a different way.  Either seated or lying on the ground, you have the opportunity to rest and release through laughter.  This is a difficult experience to describe, but whether you have spontaneous bursts of laughter or are simply aware of others laughing, there is something rather wonderful about it.  After a while, you are then guided into a deeply relaxing mind set, either using Yoga Nidra, Mindful Relaxation or Happiness Hypnosis.

    My next workshop is on Tuesday 21st August 10.00-12.00 in Ballinger War Memorial Hall
    Ballinger Common, Great Missenden BucksHP16 9LQ

    If you would like a Laughter Yoga event of your own, or would like more information then contact [email protected]

  2. I use the term “Imaginator” to describe somebody who has learned how to access the skills to imagine a different, more beneficial way of doing things. There are many quotes from eminent thinkers who acknowledge that whilst education is vital, imagination is of at least equal importance. I’m not talking just about the imagination small children use to play make believe games, although that is one of the most powerful ways for a child to learn. At the highest level all great innovations have been the result of somebody imagining a new way of doing something and having the self-belief to apply their imagination.

     The focus for Imaginators is on using the imagination to cope better with life, to find different and exciting ways to access inner resources, and to work towards self-mastery. 

    Everyone has an imagination. Some people never learn how to exercise it; some have it stifled by their life circumstances; others may have such vivid imaginations that it lessens their ability to react appropriately to the real world. An Imaginator learns how to apply their imagination appropriately to be of benefit to themselves.

     As parents we all want very similar things for our children - happiness, confidence, self-belief plus the ability to make the best of any situation and meet the challenges of life resourcefully. We want them to have the skills to be successful and fulfilled throughout their lives. You may be surprised to know that both you and your child already possesses the inner resources needed to achieve all these things, and my role is to create an inner toolbox which enables you and them to overcome any blocks which prevent accessing the pool of resources. The ability to be able to appropriately and creatively access the imagination, to apply the principle of “What if?” to a situation allows a freedom which may otherwise never be properly utilised.

    Children particularly are generally quick learners, but for everyone some things come really easily, others require a little more effort and still others take persistence and practice. Sometimes our thinking gets stuck, so we struggle to move our focus beyond a thought which limits us. There can be unconscious barriers set up along the way during the learning process, and these can have an effect on us throughout our lives. Imaginators learn to question this programming and rid themselves of the blocks.

    There are also some emotions and thought processes which we hold onto and unconsciously allow to dominate our reactions to our own thoughts, our environment and the things other people say and do. Consider just some of these and how they affect you.

    Let’s start with Fear! Whether we realise it or not, our minds will often create defences unnecessarily to protect us from perceived threats, leading to stress which manifests in a variety of ways. Perhaps you can imagine a small part of your unconscious mind behaving rather like a meerkat sentry, constantly alert and looking for danger. Of course, sometimes there really are threats, but there are also times when although our rational mind tells us everything is okay, that little guard starts jumping up and down, shrieking ‘DANGER! DANGER!” This can manifest as an irrational phobia, but more often it is far more subtle as our brain follows those well laid neural pathways leading to loss of confidence and the development of poor habits to protect ourselves. Overcoming the fear which stops us living the life we want begins by recognising and acknowledging our over-zealous protector and offering them and ourselves some peace. In other words, the world isn’t what makes us frightened, it is simply the way we think about it.

     Then we have that phenomenon which stops us moving onwards and upwards in life. Learned helplessness. You have quite probably seen the sad images of baby elephants being taken captive and being tethered to a stick in the ground by a chain. The little elephant soon learns that to fight against the strength of the chain is futile, so it stops. For ever. If it only realised that an adult elephant could snap the chain like cotton, things would be very different!  Remember that Henry Ford quote,

      “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right!”

    Things people say have a huge impact on how we perceive the world and how we behave. Even throw away remarks can create enormous blocks. I’m sure everyone has been offered helpful little comments which have stayed with them and either prevented them from doing something they would otherwise like to do or provided excuses for behaviour we would like to overcome.

    Many years ago I sang in choirs, in fact for a period of time I was head choir girl (although that may have been because I was much taller than the other kids and didn’t look so odd walking slightly ahead of them rather than recognition of my dulcet tones!!). A passing comment from my mother, likening my voice to that of my grandmother went terribly wrong! Sure, when my mother was young, her mum had a good voice - but, my only experience of her singing was an elderly lady who warbled happily out of tune. As a result, I didn’t sing in public for over 15 years. Singing along with children was fine, but it wasn’t until I joined a local choir and performed in concert with them that I was able to dispel that perception of my voice. (I cannot claim to have a great voice, but I do now have the confidence to enjoy singing again.) There was no malicious intent in my mother’s words, just as there is no harm intended in comments which set up incorrect expectations. This was a very small thing in my life, no more than a harmless throw-away comment, but sometimes the repercussions of sowing an unintended seed can be life-changing. Think about the repercussions for the child who is told, “You’re no good at sports!” or “Don’t be stupid!”

    An Imaginator can access the resources in their unconscious mind to question these statements, to build resilience.

    By the end of the Imaginator experience you and your child will have learned, through a variety of techniques how to access the resources which enable them to create positive, rational responses to challenges through a variety of techniques. They will have the tools to enable them to work towards self-mastery in a way which they can adapt to their own needs. The skills they develop will be accessible to them for their entire life.