Lighten Up!! It’s OK To Laugh In Yoga
By Katie Lucas
As an instructor, my greatest accomplishment isn’t sending home a room of sweaty people. My greatest accomplishment is when I can get my students to laugh. As the Co-Founder of Ohm K, a women’s wellness apparel brand specializing in cheeky yoga tank tops and empowering messages, I’m all about bringing some levity to my workout.
Fitness, and specifically yoga, has become so serious. How many times have you heard your instructor say, ”try not to do yoga with your face.” With all the the frowns, grimaces, and jaw clenching, we are so intent on doing it all “right." I live for the moment when I ask my class to do something so bizarre that they finally laugh. The laughter, the lightness, the release of the need to control - that is the good stuff to me.
Here are 3 reasons why I believe it’s so important:
Remember to Play
How long has it been since you played? Just moved for the joy of moving? Just sat, presently, and giggled with another person? Our lives have become so scheduled and controlled - even our “play time”. And now, “play time” generally means binge watching Netflix at 10:30 pm while you scarf down a Lean Cuisine. When we finally take time for ourselves and it has evolved into trying to stay awake to finish Orange is the New Black. Your yoga mat is a perfect playground. Just sayin. Think about it. You’re breathing low, intentionally, tickling the same part of your body that you feel when you belly laugh. You’re contorting your body like a game of twister. Maybe you fall out of half moon, GREAT! Laugh about it! The man in the moon rises up and falls each night and keeps a jolly face the whole time. So should you.
You’re Not Being Graded
Laughing in yoga is a great reminder that, although we are in a class, we are not being graded. We grow up on grades; they are the benchmark we strive toward in order to excel in school. Our grades determine our future - where we go to college, where we intern, and, ultimately, our job prospects. If you’re like me, you based a lot of your self worth and confidence on those grading scales. I was good at school, I liked school, school worked for me because I knew exactly what I needed to do to excel and, for me, excelling meant getting that coveted A. That 4.0 gpa. Grades are measurable, achievable. You know what can’t be measured? Yoga. Gah! That was, and still is, hard for me to come to terms with. “Achieving” a pose is not the point. At the end of class, you’re not graded on knowing all the sanskrit names for every asana. This is your time to practice connecting to yourself and letting go of that need to accomplish. It’s almost a shame that we refer to it as “yoga class”. I think it should be called “yoga time”.
Psychologically, I think laughter is important in yoga. I think it’s good for you emotionally. I also believe that it is important for you physically as it can be key in preventing injury. If we walk into a yoga class with the intention of levity, willingness to play, to laugh, we stay connected to the breath and maintain a peaceful, joyful connection with ourselves. When we approach yoga with the need to be perfect, to wrench ourselves into a pose, we disconnect from the breath and start beating ourselves up. “Why can’t I do this?” “I’ve been practicing for 6 years, why can’t I do a handstand.” It goes on and on and on. We end up putting our body through paces that may ultimately end up in injury and we emotionally injure ourselves. A great way to catch yourself and save your practice is laughter. If you notice yourself holding your breath, desperately trying to grasp that bind that is eluding you - take a moment to laugh. It helps to invite air deeply into the body and realign the breath. And it’s a good reminder that you’re here to play, practice, and grow.
Levity, lightness, and laughter, they are tools for growth and expansion in class. We are fighting to be in control of so many things, living by the reminders from the calendars on our phones, struggling to grasp the ever elusive “work life balance”, and ultimately ending up frustrated, or worse, injured. Class, or “yoga time” (can we please call it that now?), is a time for you to relinquish that control, to play, to let go of your need to achieve, and to be kind to yourself. Why do I create and wear funny yoga tanks? Because I too need a reminder that it just ain’t that serious.
To learn more about the author's clothing line Ohm K, you can visit the website: www.liveohmk.com.