Despite the fact that California WOW has been reduced to three branches, it seems Bangkokians these days are as nuts about their health as ever and are continuing to seek new ways to sweat.
You can go to The LAB for some serious training under the guidance of a Muay Thai instructor, get wet and wild while surfing the artificial waves at Flow House Bangkok, or even go longboarding at Lumpini Park. But what are not-so-athletic people like ourselves to do in order to try something new without exerting ourselves? Laugh our bellies off, that's what.
There's another alternative form of exercise in town. Free sessions of laughter yoga are being held at Urban Yoga Bangkok on the first and third Sundays of every month.
Is it about laughing while contorting your body into weird positions? Isn't yoga supposed to be quiet and serene? But, most importantly, can we just laugh our way to healthiness? Guru joins the class to find out what laughter yoga is all about.
CIRCLE OF LAUGHTER
The official definition of laughter yoga is a combination of yoga breathing and laughter. Dr Madan Kataria formed the Laughing Yoga Club in Bombay in 1995. Today there are over 6,000 such clubs worldwide.
The free "Laughter Rocks Bangkok" session at Urban Yoga Bangkok is led by three certified instructors - Australian Susan Aldous and Americans Patrick Haley and Edward Squire.
The class begins with a short introduction of what laughter yoga is. Then everyone is asked to think of a number from one to 10 which describes how they feel at that moment, with one being very miserable and 10 being at nirvana.
Then each participant introduces themselves with laughter before the real exercises follow. Besides copying what the instructor does, there is some role-playing mixed in with these exercises such as pretending to play badminton, brushing your teeth, and making som tam.
These exercises don't sound like much of an effort but you do sweat. The best part of it, however, is that it feels more like acting in a play and not like exercise at all.
If you're kind of uptight and poker-faced, you may find yourself thinking "this is silly". But you're going to laugh anyway because when you see other grown-ups acting just as silly, laughter comes more naturally.
Most importantly, a lot of people report that their secret number does go up in the end so there seems to be body and mind benefits from laughter whether it's real or not.
HOW TO PREPARE
Laughter yoga is not rocket science but here are some tips you should know before you join the circle of laughter.
1. You can wear any kind of attire. We don't recommend a tux or cocktail dress, though.
2. Be open-minded and willing to do strange acts or look silly.
3. Find your inner child.
4. No laugh, no gain! Like any exercise, the more commitment you put into it, the more benefit you get. Fake laugh if you have to because, by the end, you will feel better.
A LAUGHING MATTER
Laughing enriches life in many ways. Here are some benefits of laughter yoga.
1. Laughter is a form of aerobic exercise. Studies from Stanford University show that one minute of good laughter equals 10 minutes on a rowing machine or six to 10 minutes on a treadmill. It burns calories and exercises internal organs.
2. Laughter increases endorphin levels, a natural pain and stress killer in our body. Endorphins can help reduce pain from arthritis, spondylitis and muscular spasms.
3. Laughter is good for actors and singers. It exercises the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, leading to better control over speech. It also enhances self-confidence and reduces stage fright.
4. You become more attractive when you laugh and smile - no one likes a grump.
5. After a lot of laughter, you should be able to find the right dazzling smile for your next photo-op.
6. After some laughter yoga sessions, it should be easier for you to fake a laugh and appear supportive of a friend's really bad joke.
You don't need any special equipment or settings to practice laughter yoga. Grab a few friends to boost the laughter dynamics and laugh your way to happiness through these five selected exercises.
1. Clap strongly with your hands squarely meeting each other, fingertip to fingertip, to stimulate acupressure points.
2. Move up and down in rhythm as you chant and clap 1-2. Repeat and build momentum. Then move into a 1, 2-1,2,3, 1, 2-1,2,3, 1, 2-1,2,3. Up and down on the 1,2 and twist your torso for the 1,2,3.
3. Change the counting to Ho, Ho, Ha, Ha, Ha! Keep going till you all laugh and end with a big "YAY" as you throw your hands over your head.
- This exercise should be done after each other activity and as a foundation exercise for Laughter Yoga.
1. Stand with legs apart and hands placed on hips. Imagine a pen attached to your navel, pointing towards the floor.
2. Keep your body still, except for your hips, and draw an imaginary number eight with the pen on the floor. Breathe out with a big "HOOOO" and then "HEEEE" sound, expelling air from the lungs.
3. Draw the number again but this time draw it as if it were sleeping on its side.
- This exercise is for your waistline and for warming up the body.
Ditching Problems Exercise
1. Extend your arms to the front with your palms outwards.
2. Imagine all of your problems are weighing you down, make a loud, sad "AHHH" sound as you act as if they are getting heavier and heavier. Then imagine crushing them into a small ball with both hands as you continue making "AHHH" sounds with each crushing motion. Make sure you get every problem and list them out loud such as "No Money! AHHH!" "Bad Grades! AHH!" etc.
3. Now hold the ball of compacted problems in one hand and, as a group, count to three and throw all your problems behind you with a loud "UGGHHHH!" (Easier done than explained!)
1. Divide your group into two teams to play a game of imaginary tennis.
2. Side A serves the ball to side B while forcefully yelling "HOOOO!" (also great if someone on the other side is actually a ho).
3. Team B hits the ball in return to A using the same loud "HOOO". Both sides hit back and forth gaining speed and volume. All of you are winners as chances are you all will break out in laugher as the game escalates.
- You can play basketball, swim or any other sport using laughter and your imagination.
1. Pretend you have two large imaginary cocktail shakers and pour liquid back and forth with a "HOOOOO".
2. Shake the cocktail vigorously with a "ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"
3. Drink it with your head back and a large gurgling "haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" sound!
4. Repeat till you laugh naturally.
Laughter Rocks Bangkok
V4-5:30pm. 1st and 3rd Sun, Urban Yoga Bangkok, 3/F, DC1 Bldg, Yen Akat Road, Sathon.
C081-311-5555, www.UrbanYogaBangkok.com. P Free.
About the author
- Writer: Pornchai Sereemongkonpol
Position: Guru Reporter