WHEN I told people I was attending a laughter yoga class, their expressions ranged from confusion to outright horror.
“Laughter Yoga? What’s that supposed to be?”
Until I tried it, I had absolutely no idea either.
I had attended yoga classes in the past, and knew that laughter yoga is becoming increasingly popular in America.
Turning up to Llandaff North Community Centre in my lycra, however, I quickly realised we weren’t going to be doing any traditional stretching. Instead breathing exercises were combined with forced laughter. I wasn’t used to laughing for no reason, but I soon got into it.
Colin, who joined the class six months ago has recently completed a strenuous walk across France and Spain. Laughter Yoga helped keep him going.
“I started the classes when I was at a bit of a low point in my life.” said Colin.
“I actually found that it had an immediate effect on my moods. It’s part my everyday life now. I always used to laugh at jokes, but this is rather new!
“I noticed that when you’re doing long walks, the most important thing is your mood. So when you suddenly get lost, instead of getting down about it, I would just start laughing! This applies to almost everything in life.”
A friend recommended that Sylvia try laughter yoga. She had been a keen cyclist until she got pregnant. Now she walks all the way from her home in Penarth to take part on the class.
“It’s very, very liberating!” said Sylvia.
“It felt like a gift was given to me when my friend told me about it. I feel like I want to give back to other people, so I will be spreading the word and the laughter!
“It’s very playful! You feel like a child again and you definitely become in touch with your inner child.”
Others told me the class was incredibly popular and had been running for about two years. People from other areas of Cardiff would come to attend. Many had personal stories as to how the classes helped them with their daily lives.
Vinod joined after suffering a heart attack six years ago.
“I needed to do some exercises that were not too physical to keep my heart in good condition.” said Vinod.
“It’s difficult to laugh by yourself, particularly given the circumstances that everyone is in. You have a lot of stress in your everyday life.
“This is why this session is so important. It releases all stress that builds up throughout the week.”
Having laughed continuously for an hour, I was feeling incredibly hot and my stomach was feeling sore. I was warned by the class to be careful when walking back, as the sessions can make you feel incredibly light-headed.
Maria Aguirregomozcorta-Gil, who was teaching the class, is a lecturer in medicine at Cardiff University and says laughter can bring incredible health benefits.
“The aim of Laughter Yoga is to master this great free tool that everyone has,” she said.
“It helps you to be able to laugh at will, wherever we are. We combine laughter with traditional yoga breathing exercises. It makes you feel good, and when you go to sessions regularly you start to laugh more in your daily life.
“There is a need to connect with our childlike playfulness. Children learn through play, and we tend to stop this when we become adults.”
Laughter yoga was one of the most bizarre things I have ever done, but also one of the most enjoyable. It had clearly touched the hearts of many people looking to reduce the stress in their lives.
- Laughter Yoga sessions take place every Tuesday at Llandaff North Community Centre, from 7pm to 8pm. For details email Maria Aguirregomozcorta-Gil on firstname.lastname@example.org