If you want my short concise answer to this – absa-effing-lutly, YES!
I teach a lot of students who are brand new to yoga, including in beginners’ workshops, and I always stress that questions are welcome and encouraged. I let students know that if they have a question, it is 100 percent likely that the majority of the room is going to have the exact same question, so there’s no reason to be shy. And, I have to admit that their questions are always great! They prompt me to cover areas that I haven’t addressed yet and help me illustrate real-life scenarios for proper alignment and breathing.
Imagine my delight when a hand immediately darted up as I launched into my introduction and prompt for questions. This never happens, and I was excited about the enthusiasm and energy already bubbling up in the room. I was even more thrilled when I heard what the question was:
“Are we allowed to laugh in class?”
The question was posed in all sincerity and with a little bit of concern. I quickly put the student at ease by letting her know that not only is laughter allowed, it‘s highly encouraged! If you lose your balance in a pose, laugh at yourself. If you go to the left when cued to go to the right, laugh at yourself.
We take ourselves way too seriously all week long. Why not let the time on your yoga mat
be as stress-free and FUN as possible?
This question prompted me to go into an explanation that yoga is not a competition (and for that I am eternally grateful). Therefore, it’s best to leave the egos at the door, not worry if you can’t do everything right away, not judge yourself or anyone in the class, and instead focus on what is happening in your own body. I basically tell my students that the yoga studio is a “no-judgment zone,” that we are all here to support one another on our yoga journeys. This is my user-friendly way of letting them know that while laughing at themselves is encouraged, laughing at others – not so much.
I could immediately feel the anxiety levels drop in the room, shoulders got a little lighter, smiles drifted up on a few faces, and this same student later remarked, “This yoga stuff is so much better than aerobics!” And to that I say, “Amen, sister!”
Image Courtesy of: A. Feldmann
As a teacher, I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to hear a student laugh during class. There is scientific proof that when we laugh it releases endorphins in our bodies that make us happier (and healthier), and who doesn’t want to be happy?!
No matter where you are in your yoga practice, remember to smile and laugh on your yoga mat. Don’t take it all so seriously. Let the shoulders drop, be open to being a little more playful in your practice, try new things, and explore how you feel when you let go of the ego and when you let go of fear. Open up to these opportunities, and if you lose your balance, don’t beat yourself up. Laugh and know that you gave it your best shot. Laugh because you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and have fun each time you come to your yoga mat.
Like laughing on your yoga mat? Like doing yoga on the beach? Join me for an inspirational week of beach yoga bliss in Aruba this coming April 6-13, 2013!
“Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.” – Catherine Rippenger Fenwick
Time spent laughing is time spent with the Gods.— Japanese Proverb
“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” – Buddha
“Enjoy belly laughter without restraint, without inhibition and finding your buddha will be the easiest job because you will be free of all seriousness, tension, inhibition and suppression.” — Osho, Indian mystic
Thanks to the lovely Christa Scalies of Giggle On for sharing these awesome quotes about laughter!
Smiling Buddha Image: Tony Williams
New to yoga? Check out the Yoga 101 page on the Daily Downward Dog.