Today my friend was telling me how she felt a huge urge to laugh during a yoga class she was taking.
A posture they were doing felt silly to her and she wanted to bust out laughing. I told her after about a similiar experience I'd had, and how now the urge to laugh or smile comes up quite often for me during yoga.
A few years ago I was taking Kundalini yoga, which is a type of yoga that uses repetitive moves with quick, sharp breaths. We were all standing in a circle kicking our feet in and yelling HAR! The movement itself kept making me want to laugh because it was so strange. A circle of adults kicking at each other yelling as loud as we could HAR HAR HAR HAR! I'm laughing just thinking about it again.
It wasn't just because it looked and felt funny though. Something about the movement was energizing me. I'm sure part of it was because we are so used to being proper, and this felt goofy and childlike. Part of it also was the strangeness - it was liberating me from patterns and the rigidity we develop as adults.
The urge to laugh was so overwhelming that I had concentrate all of my energy on stifling it. I didn't want to laugh because I felt that would be disrespectful. I thought it also might embarrass my yoga teacher and make him regret asking us to do this move. So with a straight face I continued to kick and yell HAR!
Thankfully, the teacher was my friend and I was able to share how I felt with him afterwards. I was quiet surprised when he told me I SHOULD have laughed! I said that seemed wrong, and like it would've ruined it. But he felt the opposite. He said that was my natural reaction, and I should have let it flow. I was feeling something and I had every right and reason to express it.
I realized he was right. Laughter is a joyous expression. It feels good to laugh. And it feels good to laugh with other people. If I had laughed and others did too, I can only imagine how much more fun and memorable that moment would have been.
Since then, there have been several times when the energy in yoga has felt so good that I've wanted to laugh. But I no longer stifle it. I just let the good feeling flow, and I smile big, and I keep smiling and feeling it as long as it's in me. I have never felt such a strong, joyous feeling as I did that day in Kundalini yoga. But I think of it often, and how when my teacher gave me permission to laugh, it liberated me into a deeper and freer experience in my yoga classes. When I smile now, I sometimes feel a little strange, but I think that if someone is curious why I'm smiling like I'm on drugs they can ask me after - and maybe it will help them in some way also.
Laughter in yoga is an interesting thing. Yoga is meant to feel good, and to tap us into deeper parts of ourselves. Sometimes those parts are just brimming with pure joy, but we often see yoga as a serious thing, which it really isn't. Yoga is whatever you want it to be. So if you ever feel the urge to laugh, I would tell you to go for it! There's nothing except your own judgement saying you can't.
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