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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Forget those tums and bums classes

I have borrowed this image from
All my friends will tell you, I am not a big fan of gyms. I like outdoors. I like fun. And I have never found fun and outdoors or at least fresh air... or air that is breatheable in gyms. I am sensitive to smells so I get easily overwhelmed. So, I hold up my hand and say that I have neglected my abdominal muscles. And after having four babies, I think my body is coming back with a vengeance of a message... and asking for help.

Well, it so happens that last week I followed my body's calls without really knowing what I was doing. I work intuitively, so it doesn't matter. Sometimes I do random things and I only understand afterwards, sometimes years later, why I did. But don't we all.

I had been nudged by life to try a laughter yoga class for ages. I spotted one in the Pierian Centre, at the Centre of Bristol and kept on wishing I could make it. Well I was then a single mother working full time with two young children and no relatives (I am an immigrant) or friends to help. I was a nearly arrived immigrant then. Oh what sweet and terrifying moments these were. I am not trying to find excuses of why I didn't go. It was actually a very valid reason. There are only so many hours a day. And as delightful Joe Hoare, founder of the Bristol Laughter Club, said in the class, when I finally made it, we all have journeys that lead us to places at our own pace.

Then my friend Mary Rives mentioned Laughter Yoga, because she actually teaches it. And I thought.... funny I have heard about this before. That was probably eight years after me hearing about it for the first time. I still had no idea what it was, so this made me a little nervous. Aren't we all? Is it yoga? Is it humour? Do I need to bring a yoga mat? Are they going to ask me to do a stand up comedy on as stage... crickey, I don't know. But I sure am curious about what it is all about.

Well, fate had it that I had to make it to the last Laughter Yoga class run by Joe. As some of you might recognise, the Universe conspired. I got a free babysitter. I got free parking. Everything rolled. And you know when that happens because when things aren't meant to happen, obstacles keep on coming up. But then, I was in the flow.

The class was incredibly amazing. I am not American, OK? I don't do amazing and incredible very easily. If I say it, then that is what is. I say things the way they are. Let me try to explain what it did for me and you will understand what I mean. First of all, it relaxed me. My body was so tense from all the worrying about a million things that I became aware of how tense my neck and shoulders were because laughing actually hurt. I yawned so much you wouldn't believe. And instead of becoming self conscious of it, we (Joe) included it in the process of the session. I told Joe I was delighted for once that he didn't feel offended that I yawned whilst he was talking because I am so tired all the time and when my body urges me to yawn when someone is talking, I have to repress it, or else my loved ones get offended. In Joe's Circle, though, I was allowed to do that. I had a safe space to be me and to honour my body. The other thing I need to do which usually gets me into trouble is drink water. So I kept on asking if I could go and get more water. And again, Joe gracefully included that in the process of the class. Of course because I listen to my body's needs, I usually also interrupt a lot to go to the toilet... instead of suffering in silence and getting dehydrated, as I was taught too. Luckily that day, I only disrupted the class by getting the water and not also by going to the toilet. I mean I was the new girl on the block, how disruptive can I allow myself to be? Well, this is a good question because although I don't like to inflict myself upon others, this was my treat. And I wasn't going to let anyone spoil it. I hope the others will forgive me.

I had so many shifts that evening. Some were happy, some were sad. I managed to relax my body to a level that I never thought was possible. The sadness, mixed with joy, was to realise that I missed my grand mother who taught me how laughter is the best medicine. And I realised that since 2000 (and maybe even before) I have missed her a lot. Somehow, however, I get the feeling that from heaven she led me to that class.

I also realised that I had never allowed myself to laugh as loud as I am able to for fear of sounding stupid or being judged as unfeminine. I have a loud laugh. I can go into hysterics easily. In fact I have one other friend who took on my grand mother's role to laugh with me but she lives on the other side of the world so we don't get to do that so often anymore. Joe did an amazing exercise where we all lied down with our head in the centre and spread like a sun and we allow ourselves to laugh freely, as no one knows precisely who is laughing at any particular moment, although of course they do... but it creates a space. And that was when I really let go and had a true moment of bliss. It is also the moment when I realised that laughter yoga is definitely what I want to use those tummy muscles. It was so much fun... and it hurt. But it was more fun that it hurt if that makes any sense.

I can see that the years of doing spiritual practices such as yoga, tai chi, zazen, nia dance and everything in between had prepared me to fully enjoy the class. You don't have to have the experience that I have to enjoy it. Everyone can get something from it.

So as the creator of the holistic movement that the journey of the slim soul is: I highly recommend laughter yogas as a form of holistic physical exercise. And it's also good for the soul. Don't they say that laughter is the best medicine? If you are not feeling well, go laugh with the Laughing Yogis of this world. Your body doesn't know the difference between forced laughter and spontaneous laughter. Give it a try. Get the laughter ball rolling. It's got to be better than pills. Right?

Have a blessed day

Ange de Lumiere
(c) 2013 Ange de Lumiere

PS: And let all the laughter yogis of this world freely share this blog to promote their work. They have my blessing.