Repeat after me: bwahahahahahaha.
And again. No, really, it’s good for you.
The couch recently spotted a post about laughter yoga and the eye roll began even before I opened it to find out more. Immediate thoughts went to the hysterical howls that would erupt if anyone saw me untangling from the Lying On The Couch With The Dogs pose. And even Perching On The Edge Before Standing Up.
The Broken Back Shuffle With Grandad’s Walking Stick is also funny from the outside. Perhaps I should start a TikTok or Instagram account and post these as a contribution to the world’s mental health. I see a Nobel prize in my future.
Since I’m unable to do even the most basic yoga things, I decided to look and see if you had to strike a pose and what made people laugh while doing yoga.
It seems it’s a real thing, from way back in the 90s. There are actual classes where groups of relative strangers do it together.
Proper science people say people’s poor deluded bodies can’t tell the difference between a sincere hearty guffaw and a fake.
So, to get all the benefits of the best medicine, all you have to do is pretend.
Apparently, you get better at it and it becomes easier. So far all I have managed to do is scare the dogs and feel really embarrassed, even in the sanctuary of the Smallest Room or on the couch. Hounds are known to be able to sniff out a fake, perhaps accounting for their suspicion and alarm.
The classes, as of a 2021 article on HealthLine, number about 5 000 around the world. Many were even able to laugh in the face of Covid because there are online classes too.
The couch research found that, although the medicinal/psychological findings were based on a fairly small sample size, even fake laughter released “happy” hormones like serotonin and dopamine. A good giggle slows the release of the stress hormone cortisol and generally makes you feel like you’ve just had a relaxing cuppa and a hearty natter with a friend.
Other “side effects” produced by these physical responses include easing of stress and anxiety, an improved immune system, a better mood and lower blood pressure.
Done in a group setting, it can create bonds with others and help you take yourself less seriously.
Basically, there are breathing and movement exercises that relax the important laughter muscles. Then you start with a little chuckle, and build up to a laugh. Once you get going you push up the volume to the max.
But of course, there has to be a Debbie Downer somewhere: in 2013 CBC News reported on two researchers’ findings who warned “side-splitting or laughing fit to burst” could cause “protrusion of abdominal hernias; a quick intake of breath could cause foreign bodies to be inhaled; a trigger for asthma attacks; incontinence; headaches”.
Robin Ferner from City Hospital Birmingham and JK Aronson of the University of Birmingham concluded in their mainly light-hearted article in the British Medical Journal that: “It remains to be seen whether sick jokes make you ill, dry wit causes dehydration or jokes in bad taste cause dysgeusia,” a distortion of the sense of taste.
Now, repeat after me: bwahahahahaha.
- Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor
The Independent on Saturday