Step 1: Clapping and Warming-up Exercises: We clap with our hands parallel to each other for full finger-to-finger and palm-to-palm contact. This stimulates acupressure points in our hands and increases energy levels.
Then we add a rhythm to the clapping to further increase energy levels and group synchronicity, often a 1-2, 1-2-3 rhythm.
Next we add movement. There are many variations, but most move hands up and down and swing from side to side with corresponding movements of the legs and feet. By now most are already in a better mood and smiling.
Chanting and Moving: We add a simple chant to our clapping, normally ho, ho, ha-ha-ha. These are heavy exhalations that come from the belly to stimulate diaphragmatic breathing.
We move randomly, smiling and making eye contact with others in the group.
Many add dance movements to this sequence which boosts feelings of happiness and joy.
Enthusiastic clapping, chanting and movement help build a positive energy, gets our diaphragm moving and creates a positive group dynamic, preparing us to laugh.
Gibberish Talking: Gibberish is a language of sounds without meaning. Children speak gibberish when learning to speak and during play. We sometimes use gibberish as a warming up exercise to help loosen people up and reduce inhibitions and shyness. Some people find it easier if you tell them what to ‘talk’ about. Different emotions can be expressed including happiness, anger, sadness, romance and more. It is a playful exercise and helps cultivate childlike playfulness. Gibberish may be fast or at normal conversational speed and generally involves a focus on tone and hand and body movements to convey meaning. Silent gibberish is also fun and easier for some.
Step 2: Deep Breathing Exercises
Laughter exercises are interspersed with deep breathing exercises to help flush the lungs as well as bring physical and mental relaxation.
A typical deep breathing exercise:
From a relaxed standing position, bend forward at the waist to a point where you are comfortable (different for everyone) while exhaling through the mouth to fully empty your lungs. Dangle your arms. Bending helps push the diaphragm up and empty your lungs. Hold briefly.
Straighten up slowly while inhaling through your nose and take as deep a breath as possible. Raise your arms to the sky, stretching your body slightly backwards. Hold your breath for 4-5 seconds.
Exhale slowly as you bring your arms down and bend forward. Try to exhale longer than you inhale in order to empty your lungs completely. Hold… then repeat.
A variation is to hold your breath a little longer, then letting the air burst forth in hearty laughter.
There is no necessity to do the breathing exercise after every laughter exercise. These exercises are designed to take a break and relaxation so that you don’t get tired doing laughter exercises continuously. You can decide according to your judgment after how many exercise to do these breathing exercises. You can do after two exercises Autry exercises depending upon the energy levels of the group.
Step 3: Childlike Playfulness
An objective of Laughter Yoga is to cultivate your childlike playfulness that helps you to laugh without reason. We sometimes chant after an exercise:
Very good (clap), very good (clap), yay (swinging arms up into a Y shape with thumbs up in childish exuberance and exhilaration).
Chanting of very good, very good, yay in between laughter exercises and breathing exercises the entire group keeps chanting very good very good yay. This will help you to keep the energy levels and build up the enthusiasm. You can decide after how many exercises you should chant very good very good yay.
Step 4: Laughter Exercises
They are divided into three types:
Yogic Laughter Exercises: Some exercises are based on yogic breathing (Pranayama) and a few are based on yoga postures, including the ever-popular Lion laughter performed with growling laughter.
Playful Laughter Exercises: These help to reduce inhibition and shyness and to convert simulated laughter into unconditional laughter. They often include method-acting techniques to shift our mindset, imagining and acting out a situation or a role. One-meter laughter, Milkshake laughter, Mobile phone laughter and Hot-soup laughter are especially popular.
Value-based Laughter Exercises: These are designed to ‘program’ positive feelings to gestures or situations while laughing, teaching our subconscious new auto-responses. Visa card laughter, Appreciation laughter, Greeting laughter and Forgiveness laughter are popular.