Simple Ways to Practice Laughter Yoga Every Day


Have you ever experienced someone making you laugh in the middle of a deep, long cry? It interrupts the moment and gives you a chance to take in more air while you balance on the cusp between relief and distress. 

Personally, that’s what every positive moment during quarantine has felt like to me—a discordant outburst of joy in the middle of a collective sob. It’s unnatural and snaps me out of my current sad reality for a second. It’s just long enough to relax a bit before slipping back into thinking about the harsh panic Covid-19 has distributed throughout the world.

I learned about laughter yoga and teacher Sharon de Caestecker on the same day, thanks to a story from the BBC. That story popped up when I was searching for feel-good articles about people who were using the pandemic as an opportunity to give back. 

I had no idea what a laughter yoga practice entailed, as it was the first time I’d ever heard of it. But after exchanging emails with de Caestecker, I found myself sitting on a yoga mat in my Chicago suburb bedroom, smiling at the boxed faces in the Zoom gallery of the laughter yoga class broadcast from Leicestershire, England. 

Laughing and smiling both come pretty naturally to me. I’ve always tried to have a friendly demeanor (an RSF, resting smiling face, if you will), and at one point it just became my default. I attribute this in part to being nervous in new situations and to the positive reinforcement I get when someone besides myself chuckles or grins at a joke I’ve told. I also expect smiling and laughing have become second nature to me because of the psychological mirroring effect. This is the tendency to reflect the expressions or gestures of someone you’re conversing with. So if I go through my day smiling and reminding myself to be lighthearted, chances are I’ll be able to share more moments with others who also feel or at least present in the same way.

De Caestecker had us warm up our “laughter muscles” before diving into the practice. That made me realize that there may be an element of work involved, which is different from laughing or smiling spontaneously during the day. She also announced at the start of the class that there wouldn’t be any talking during the practice—only laughing and two different clapping patterns that signaled when we were at the end of an exercise. 

In an email she sent to me beforehand, de Caestecker explained the idea of the practice: “Laughter yoga is a unique concept where we laugh for no reason—no comedy, no jokes, no humor, just laughing for the sake of it. Laughter releases feel-good endorphins leading to improved mood, energy, and sense of well-being.” 

She also told the class that it was okay if we were faking or forcing the laughter at first. The brain can’t tell the difference between a real or fake laugh, but it turns out that the longer you sit in a video call with a bunch of strangers who are laughing rhythmically or at made-up scenarios, it’s easy for those laughs to become authentic.

What followed was an imaginary trip to the seaside for a holiday. De Caestecker had us laugh at our maps when our bus driver got us lost, and then guffaw between steps on the hot sand once we finally arrived. We concluded our beach trip with a marching band performance, with all of us divided into different sections. We each had a unique style of laughter, and de Caestecker conducted us thoughtfully through an impromptu song made up of giggles and belly laughs alike. 

The first half of the practice felt strange. But once I was able to get past my initial discomfort, it was like making any other sound—except that this one helped you to feel good!

I don’t usually get an endorphin buzz on a normal day without laughter yoga except maybe when I’m humming while doing the dishes. And when I sing in the car I feel a definite brightening of my mood. Laughing again and again and again though was different from both of those, though. It was like a switch flipped during the practice and positivity became abundant. My cheeks grew sore and tired but everything around me felt a little bit lighter. 

“If we leave laughter to chance it may not happen, particularly given the current situation,” de Caestecker wrote. “However, laughter yoga provides a time and a space to laugh just for the sake of it.” 

Right now, making space for laughter and joy, even if it feels forced at first, shows me that it’s possible to create a light to always carry with me—a light I can turn on when I most need it.

I’m not able to quantify how many times I laugh during the day. But it was certainly more frequent in the good old days when I was able to meet my friends for happy hour or could leave the house without wearing a mask. This new practice gave me the opportunity for a guaranteed endorphin boost despite what was going on in the world around me. Right now, making space for laughter and joy, even if it feels forced at first, shows me that it’s possible to create a light to always carry with me—a light I can turn on when I most need it. 

To have an entire hour to work my “laughter muscle” was tiring by the end of the class, but it also gave me a positive outlook on the second half of my day.

Working from home, staying indoors when the weather necessitates doing so, and the monotony of the days and weeks running together has made it hard for me to maintain cheerfulness and a positive attitude. At the end of the class with de Caestecker, though, all I really wanted to do was share all the different laughter scenarios with my family and make them chuckle along with me for no reason—just to feel better and spread joy in our house. 

Everyone is doing the best they can right now to navigate the tumultuous events unfolding around us, and a pandemic that continues to change the way we live. Telling a joke or helping to aid others in laughter can help all of us to appreciate our ability to not take everything so seriously. 

I think my favorite takeaway from the laughter practice is the ability to share it with others and come up with similar scripts myself. While it can at first feel like a chore to remind myself to laugh instead of sighing and dragging my feet through another day in quarantine, the immediate benefits are undeniable. 

“Anyone can laugh when times are good, but laughter yoga teaches people to laugh unconditionally and helps them to keep a positive mental attitude regardless of circumstances,” de Caestecker wrote. 

People can practice laughter yoga whenever they want. It isn’t so much about the instructor’s guidance as it is your mindset going into it and setting aside time for it. Here are some ways de Caestecker suggests incorporating more laughter into every day: 

• Begin your day with a smile—as soon as the alarm clock goes off, replace your groan with a smile. You may have to force it at first, but it will soon become a beautiful habit.

• Use laughter prompts to remind you to laugh. For example, each time you approach a red traffic light, instead of growling in frustration, use it as a prompt to laugh. Prompts are important as we can quite easily forget to include laughter in our busy daily routines; a prompt linked to a visual cue or another regular habit soon becomes the norm.

• Take a laughter shower in the morning—just laugh as you lather up!

• Remember that it doesn’t matter if the laughter is real or simulated—the benefits of laughter are yours regardless. So even if you don’t feel like laughing, try it anyway!

About the Teacher

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Jessica Peterson
Jess Peterson — Jess is the editorial intern at Yoga International. She is currently pursuing a bachelors... Read more