Laughter Yoga is a structured exercise program led by a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader or a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher who leads the group by giving instructions. This article outlines all of the steps of a full Laughter Yoga session in a group. Let’s go!
These are the 9 steps to Laughter Yoga in a group:
- Step 1: Welcome
- Step 2: Clapping and Warm-Up Exercises
- Step 3: Chanting and Moving
- Step 4: Deep Breathing
- Step 5: Childlike Playfulness
- Step 6: Laughter Exercises
- Step 7: Laughter Meditation
- Step 8: Grounding Activity
- Step 9: Closing
Step 1: Welcome
The first part of the session is the welcome. The Certified Laughter Yoga Leader or Teacher will welcome you to the session, introducing herself and the Laughter Yoga practice. When introducing the Laughter Yoga practice, the instructor will answer the question “What is Laughing Yoga?” and outline the key reminders for a safe and fun laughter exercise session. The facilitator may allow time for individual group members to say their name and engage them in icebreaker exercise.
One thing to note. Laughing with each other is a key part of Laughter Yoga. In Laughter Yoga participants laugh with others as opposed to at others. We always laugh with others who are laughing with us.
Step 2: Clapping and Warm-Up Exercises
The leader will start the laughter session with warm up exercises. The warm-up includes simple stretches and movements along with making sounds with the voice in order to prepare the voice for laughter. The warm-up is an important part of the Laughter Yoga session because it functions to remove inhibitions.
You want to begin by clapping with a full palm-to-palm, finger-to-finger clap. This special clapping motion stimulates acupressure points in the hands and increases energy levels. Clap with an enthusiastic palm-to-palm, finger-to-finger clap and feel the energy massage in your in your palms and fingertips. Now add a special rhythm. It’s the cha-cha rhythm and it goes like this: one-two, one-two-three, one-two, one-two-three. Clapping in this rhythm helps to further boost energy levels and group synchronicity.
Step 3: Chanting and Moving
Now the leader will begin to add laughter sounds to the one-two, one-two-three clap. The chant goes like this: Ho Ho, Ha Ha Ha! Your body doesn’t care if the laughter is genuine laughter or if you are just going through the motions of laughing. You still get all the benefits of laughter even if you just go through the motions of laughter. It can be difficult for people to laugh without reason at first. Chanting Ho Ho, Ha Ha Ha with enthusiasm while moving around the space really starts to loosen the inhibitions and makes it easier for people to laugh.
Step 4: Deep-Breathing Exercises
During the Laughter Yoga session, laughter exercises are interspersed with deep breathing exercises. This helps to flush the lungs of stale air and aid in physical and mental relaxation. You want to breathe from your belly when you are engaging in breathing exercises. That’s our goal. I like to stretch my arms up overheard when I breathe but you could also put your hands on your belly to feel yourself breathing from your belly.
If you are standing, bend your knees slightly. As you breathe in stretch the arms up overhead. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Then exhale as you slowly as you lower your arms down and bend forward at the waist. Let your hands dangle as they fall to your feet.
When you are engaging in deep breathing you want your exhalation to last longer than your inhalation. If you are the Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, it is important for you to lead the participants in the laughter exercises and the breathing exercises. You want to encourage your participants to enjoy a longer exhalation. You may also wish to combine this breathing exercise with laughter. That’s one sure way to get along exhalation! You can breathe in and stretch up and then just laugh on the way down.
FUN FACT: Laughter Yoga is called Laughter Yoga because of the deep breathing exercises or pranayama that is interspersed throughout the session. That and the fact that laughter in its simplest form is a series of deep inhalations and exhalations. You can try it yourself. When you are laughing from your belly “HA, HA, HA” you can feel your belly moving up and down, expelling old oxygen and bringing in the new.
Step 5: Childlike Playfulness
One of the reasons that Laughter Yoga is effective in helping us to laugh deeply without inhibition is because it encourages a sense of childlike playfulness. We’re able to initiate our childlike playfulness through a special chant. It goes like this: Very Good, Very Good, Yay! You clap twice while exclaiming “Very Good, Very Good” then extend the arms upward with a triumphant YAY!”
The Very Good, Very Good, Yay chant and the HO HO, HA HA HA chant are interspersed between the Laughter Yoga exercises. A good Leader will mix up the chants, sometimes ending a Laughter Yoga exercise with the Very Good, Very Good, Yay chant and other times ending the Laughter Yoga exercise with the Ho Ho, Ha Ha Ha chant.
If you are the Leader, you always want to lead participants in the Very Good, Very Good, Yay chant two times in a row. That way if a participant didn’t get it the first time around, they have a second opportunity to join in feel successful. If it’s painful for your participants to reach their arms overhead they say “Yay,” they can also perform the chant without reaching their arms up overhead and instead give a thumbs up at the waist when they exclaim, “Yay.”
Step 6: Laughter Exercises
The next step of Laughter Yoga, and the bulk of your session, is the laughter exercises themselves. The leader will introduce playful Laughter Exercises that initiate playful behaviors that are acted out while laughing.
Here are three exercises to try right now if you wish:
- Aloha Laughter – Inhaling, stretch upward and say “Alo~~~” for a long breath; at the very end of the breath, fall forward with a firm “Ha-a-a!” You can even finish with a laughing hula wave. I love to do this exercise in bed falling forward into a pillow. When I do this exercise, I try to really burst into laughter.
- Milkshake – We’re going to drink a laughter milkshake, but first we must mix it. Pretend you are holding two glasses. We’ll pour one glass into the other and say “Aye!” We’ll pour it back into the first glass and say “Aye!” again. Then we’ll drink it as we laugh out loud.
- Cell Phone – Pull out your pretend mobile phone and put it up to your ear. Act like you are having the funniest conversation ever and walk around laughing and share your conversation with others. If you’re more of a texter, imagine funny texts are coming in. Show them to the rest of us as you interact with others.
A typical Laughter Yoga session will include about 12-15 Laughter Yoga exercises, depending on the size of the group and other factors. Learn over 40 Laughter Yoga exercises plus how to create your own exercises in the Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Training.
Step 7: Laughter Meditation
The next step is the Laughter Meditation. Laughter Meditation means free-flowing deep laughter in the present. At this point in the session we drop the Laughter Exercises and just allow ourselves to laugh like a flowing river. There is no talking or performing in order to make others laugh. It is simply a time of free-flowing laughter. Periods of breathing naturally happen in the laughter meditation. Regular breathing interspersed throughout the Laughter Meditation helps us to laugh longer.
The group can start the Laughter Meditation with eyes open and then progresses to eyes closed. The Leader may have participants begin the Laughter Meditation by sitting comfortably in an inwardly facing circle, or participants may lie down.
You can read more about Laughter Meditation here.
Step 8: Grounding Activity
It is now the time for relaxation and cooling down of the heart rate. The Leader may use various grounding methods to help you relax during this “savasana” time.
One of my favorite methods of relaxation is the “Yoga Nidra” or guided body tour. During this tour of the body, participants focus on relaxing various parts of the body, as guided by the leader. This progressive muscle relaxation is essentially a guided body tour that keeps the mind in the present moment by allowing it to focus on different parts of the body.
Step 9: Closing
The last step is the closing. This is a nice time to go around the circle and each person say their name. I have hosted a free Laughter Club for over a decade now. One of the things that I like to do at the end of the session is to leave a few minutes for participants to share how the session was for them. Participants feel connected to each other after laughing together and this invites continued conversation after the session has officially ended.
How Can I Attend a Laughter Yoga Class Near Me?
There are thousands of Laughter Clubs in over 100 countries all over the world. You can find a Laughter Club here. With the COVID 19 pandemic, online Laughter Yoga has exploded in popularity. Now you can easily find a Laughter Club on Zoom and get to laughing right in your living room. My Laughter Club is free of charge and meets twice weekly on Zoom. Come laugh with us.