Going to regular sessions of Laugh Yoga may sound ridiculous, even laughable. But that's the whole idea: Participants get in a circle, maintain eye contact, become playful and childlike — and through a series of goofy, nonsensical games, they at first force themselves to laugh, and soon they are laughing for real.
We all know laughter is contagious and that it's good for us, but we've somehow become a very serious society that labors under the delusion that serious people are responsible and get things done, whereas laughing people are goofing off and need to grow up, says Jean Roorda, a certified Laugh Yoga leader.
Walking by her Laugh Yoga class in Ashland's Lithia Park, you might mistake members for escapees from a nearby mental-health unit (most passersby smile and wave). But laughing is serious stuff, and soon you discern they are applying themselves to dozens of exercises with mirthful devotion.
One never can tell what will trigger someone out of fake laughter into genuine hysteria, says Roorda, but it always happens. Among her favorite exercises is "milkshake," simply pouring an imaginary liquid from one container to another. Soon, it incites a real smile and, before long, doubling up and busting a gut.
After an hour of this, participants can't help but feel happy.