Four Unfunny Truths About Laughter Yoga

by Jodie Shupac

I went to laughter yoga the other night, I guess because I live in a big city and sometimes wear stretchy pants in the street and pretty regularly force-feed myself kale.

Regular yoga is no longer the cure-all for your out-of-balance, toxins-infested mind-body; the cure-all is laughter yoga. Basically, laughter yoga is the new method for scrubbing out our dirty bodies and changing our brain chemistry and banishing sadness and stress from everyone. Forever.

The idea is that laughing is good for you (science says so, after all), and that pretending to laugh can be just as good for your health and wellbeing as actual laughing. So that’s what you do, in laughter yoga. You pretend — force yourself, even — to laugh. For an hour.

Here is what I learned at laughter yoga.

1. There is no yoga in laughter yoga.

I think I have a pretty forgiving definition of what yoga is (like, taking deep breaths when you’re trying not to punch people on the subway is clearly yoga), but standing in the dimly-lit “party room” of someone’s condo with a handful of kooky middle-aged ladies (respect), and forcing yourself to cackle maniacally at literally nothing for a full hour is just unsettling. It’s like the humiliating improv unit in high school drama class, but this time you paid money for it and everyone is 30 years older. My chakras are still unaligned.

2. I am a bad person.

The only times during class that I let forth genuine, from-the-belly guffaws (and not the unsettling alien cackles and donkey brays that apparently emerge when I’m forced to laugh nonstop for 60 minutes straight), were when I made eye contact with the friend I’d come to class with. We were made to mime throwing milkshakes at people, and we lost it. We were asked to yuk it up over an imaginary Visa bill, and I caught her eye and went into convulsions.

This laughter felt less curative and more of the where-are-we-make-it-stop-let’s-never speak-of-this-again variety, but it was therapeutic nonetheless.

3. I am incapable of hiding my inner darkness.

I thought I’d done an OK good job of concealing my black thoughts, but on the way home from class my friend was like, “I kept looking over at you and thinking, ‘Jodie so wants to kill herself right now.’”

4. I’m uncomfortable with catharsis.

Toward the end of the class, we had to clutch at either real or pretend physical ailments and hobble around laughing. The idea to embrace a fuck you, you don’t own me approach to pain.

I watched an eccentric older lady, five-foot-nothing, beset with wrinkles and quite round, shriek with laughter as she pressed her hands to her stooped, ostensibly aching back. My eyes welled up. I was suddenly struck by the profound beauty of it all, which was followed by a sense of empowerment.

And then, swiftly, shame.


Photo via ffscsw/flickr.

Jodie Shupac is a reluctant millennial. More importantly, she’s a freelance writer who lives in Toronto.