Monday, July 13, 2009

Laughter Yoga is Acting

Laughter yoga is acting, acting in its highest form, and in the fact that living life is acting.

Method acting is the term. It’s the form of acting that Marlon Brando did and it’s why he was considered the greatest American actor.

A truly great actor has lived a lot of life and consequently has a wide range of emotional experiences to draw upon. A truly great actor choose his emotions. “It’s onstage honesty.”* He isn’t acting; he is living his emotions on the stage. This is what they say Mr. Brando did. Every time he played a character, he embodied the intense emotions that that character portrayed, actually living those emotions. In this sense, he wasn't "acting". He was able to call upon these emotions in himself because he had lived them before in his emotionally wrenching early life.

In laughter yoga we do the same, only with positive emotions. We’ve all had the experience of laughing and we’ve all experienced the accompanying joy. This is what we recreate in ourselves in a laughter yoga session. I repeatedly tell participants it’s only my job to jump start everyone laughing and then it’s their job to self-generate their own laughter, with the support and contagiousness of everyone else, and with my continued modeling. Like Method Acting, it’s a process of creating the emotions of laughter.

Acting is a natural behavior, as natural as living life. As Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” We choose our actions in life. We choose what to do. We can also choose our emotions. This is really what emotional maturity is. We choose how to respond to different situations. We choose how to respond when someone expresses anger at us. We choose whether to react or to stay calm and centered. A truly effective life is one where we are always choosing both our actions and our emotions. Laughter Yoga is a great way to practice this.

As one Laughter Yoga student put it, “It’s nice to have a larger than normal portfolio of feelings to feel and for no particular reason.”

*Method Man, Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker, Oct 27, 2008

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Favorite Laughter Yoga Exercises

Some of my Laughter Yoga students revealed their favorite laughter exercises and why. Here’s what they said:

The Handshake Laugh: “It felt the most natural and was a great way to start the sessions. Nothing quite compares to locking hands with someone sharing a laugh.”

The Static Electricity Laugh and The Tag Laugh: “My favorite laughs are the ones with a direct playfulness about the laughter, like the spark laugh where you touch someone’s finger, scream and then laugh; or the Tag Laugh where you touch someone like you were tagging them, then run away laughing; and the Seattle Rain Laugh that starts out with three quiet laughs and ends with the one big laugh because the sun came out. Just plain silly.”

Balloon Sword Fight Laugh: “It was fun to sword fight with everyone, taking a swing at somebody knowing they weren’t going to get hurt.”

Toss the Balloons: “There were moments when I just couldn’t help but laugh until I just about cried.”

Vowel Movement with Pom-Poms and Sword Fight with Balloons: “These are my favorites because it’s always fun to have props.”

Toss the Balloons Laugh: “My favorite laugh because it reminds me of when I was young. I used to always play with balloons. Because it has a significant relationship to my childhood, it makes me a happier better person.”

Seattle Rain Laugh: “I liked the difference between how the two types of laughs make me feel, the quieter laugh and then the explosion.”

The Wave Laugh: “This is my favorite where we pass the laugh around the circle. Because we are in a circle, it’s easy to see everyone’s laugh and that makes me laugh. I don’t know why but the laugh combined with the facial expression would just crack me up.”

The Scarf Toss: “It’s really crazy that this is my favorite laugh, but for some reason I just get real juiced and giggly when I start throwing all these scarves in the air. This other kid and I would always end up in the middle of the class tossing these scarves in the air and at each other and we’d be cracking up.”

The Vowel Movement: “This is my favorite laugh because it gives me that extra boost of energy right before the end of class.”

AND my personal favorite is The Hearty Laugh, where you throw your arms up in the air and laugh in an exclamation of pure joy!