Sunday, April 10, 2011

Laugh It Up

You'd never know it by looking at me, but I have never been one of those people who complains about working out. In fact, I really love exercising. My problem has always been one of time...and the fact that I really freakin' love to eat...and not always healthy stuff. I mean, french fries are a thing of beauty, n'est-ce pas? As 40 looms closer and closer, though, I've made a concerted effort (which I've discussed here many times) to change my eating habits and also get more time in at the gym. I'm not doing any crazy fad diets. I'm not going on any meal plans. I'm taking it one meal at a time and really trying to change my thinking and make those choices that will ultimately make a difference in the long run. Slowly but surely, change is happening, and I truly feel like I'm on a journey that will reap rewards today, tomorrow, and years down the line.

Enough preaching.

In addition to the whole eating thing, I have been trying to carve moments into my day for exercise. I had to take the beginning of the year off due to a schedule that made exercise pretty impossible (largely fueled by the fact that I didn't want to spend all that money on gas to add additional trips back and forth between school and home -- a roughly 35 mile round trip.) For me, working out has always been a sort of spiritual thing. I've never really been someone who wants a "workout buddy" because that time in the gym is kind of holy to me. It's a time that's just about me. I can plug into my iPod and spend 30, 40, 60, however many minutes I have just focused on me. It's a chance to commune with myself. Yes, a lot of that communion is thoughts about working out -- mentally encouraging myself, setting challenges for myself, pushing for that extra rep in the hopes that it will lead to good things. Sometimes, that time is spent, too, thinking about life, work, that book I've been reading...and that's okay, too. The spiritual approach to exercise, though, has always been a key component.

Needless to say, yoga has always, then, been a fascinating concept for me. Back when I was much more hard core about working out, yoga was a part of my routine. I liked the spirituality of it despite the challenges of some of the poses. In fact, it was the spirituality that kept me going back more than anything. Those last moments when we would just lie there and breathe ... priceless.

A couple weeks ago, I saw an invitation floating around facebook announcing the formation of a laughter yoga club here in my hometown. That combined two things I love -- laughter and yoga. How could I let that pass me by? When my schedule opened at last -- last week! -- I hightailed my way downtown and decided to give it a whirl. Let me say, friends, it was absolutely incredible.

First of all, it was not necessarily the yoga I remembered. Going in, I had visions (and painful memories) of downward dog and trying to con myself into laughing while in that pose that still makes my arm muscles ache when I think of it. Laughter yoga is incredibly low impact. It involves more mudras (hand poses) than anything else -- although I was thrilled to find myself in an old favorite pose -- the rag doll. (That's where you just basically bend over and hang there. Seriously, it does wonders for your leg and back muscles!) In addition to mudras, laughter yoga incorporates sound...largely laughter. The idea is to increase the amount of oxygen pumped into the body (as an instructor said, "Cancer can't exist where there is oxygen"), and laughter brings in more oxygen than just breathing.

Laughter yoga is not necessarily an intense physical workout. I was glad I'd spent a half hour on the elliptical before heading to the meeting. But its incorporation of that spiritual element did more for me in the roughly 50 minutes we were in there than just about anything. My soul felt a little lighter as I headed out to my car, my shoulders felt a little squarer. Laughter yoga may not make my body skinny, but it make my spirit soar...and there's no substitute for that.

For more information about laughter yoga, go here:


Natalie said...

Mel, thank you for coming to laugh with us...I have known you to laugh well for a long time. The real gift of Laughter Yoga is the ability to make us take ourselves a little less seriously and that opens the possibility for compassion for ourselves and others. Our club does some different stuff than other clubs, but it is all to include more people in the wonderful possibilities of life. I am so happy you joined us-you are such a great addition to our community! Namaste, love and peace.

Danielle Mari said...

This post and Natalie's reply have made me so happy I might just pop.
Love you.
And shit. We would ROCK at this together!