Try This Breath Practice for Instant Laughter

Bogged down by the headlines or the way Marriage Story ended with that awkward, sad song? Here's an easy way to get an energetic jolt of joy so you can reset your day.
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Is laughter truly the best medicine? 

Is laughter truly the best medicine? 

Get Ready

Use this pranayama to bring some lightness, laughter, and joy to your day. It could feel especially powerful as a contrast to the moments when you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with the impacts of stress, anxiety, fear, or worry. It's also a fun practice to try with a friend or small group of people.

See also 6 Breath Practices for a Stressful Day

If you would like to, set an alarm to time your practice—between five and ten minutes. Sit or lay down, using cushions or mats as desired. When you feel ready, you can close your eyes. If you would rather keep them open, rest your gaze on the floor, wall, or ceiling.

Practice

  1. Begin diaphragmatic breathing with long, slow inhales through your nose and exhales through your mouth. Remember that each inhale should fill your belly, rather than your chest. On the exhalations, allow your belly to relax, moving back toward the spine.
  2. Without pause, bring the inhale back in through the nose for five counts, followed by a five-count exhale. Continue for five minutes, or longer if you have built a daily practice. If you are seated and feel lightheaded, lay down for the duration.
  3. Without getting attached, breathe with wherever your mental, emotional, and physical experiences take you. There’s no wrong direction. No answers to find. You don’t have to control it, but if you feel distracted or resistant at any point, return your focused attention to the breath moving in your body.
  4. After a few minutes, invite your awareness to drop more deeply into your body. Feel free to check in and see if you feel safe. If you do not, ask yourself what you need in order to feel safe. See if you are able to meet that need internally or externally. At the very least, let that part know it is witnessed and heard.
  5. Start laughing, even if it feels forced or like there’s nothing to laugh about. It does not have to make sense. Let the energy of laughter ripple through your body. If this feels difficult, try letting out a big yell first, to move some of that energy out. Then try laughing again. Feel free to move and shake your body or roll around while laughing.
  6. After 30 seconds or so, return to the breath. Let it carry you through whatever bubbles up after the laughter settles.
  7. At various moments throughout the rest of the practice, allow laughter to arise as often as you can. Notice any resistance to it without judgment. Notice, too, where the laughter lives in your body. Are there any parts that desire more laughter and joy in your life? Can you allow yourself joy and pleasure?
  8. Allow the breath to awaken as much aliveness in you as possible. After five to ten minutes of this practice, allow yourself another minute of resting breath. If you closed your eyes, slowly open them. If you kept them open, blink once or twice. Thank yourself for choosing laughter and joy, in spite of, or despite, whatever else was present.

See also What's So Funny? How Laughter Yoga Heals

Excerpted from The Power of Breathwork, by Jennifer Patterson. Her new book equips you with 27 exercises for channeling joy, creativity, emotional release, and more into your life. Patterson calls on her experience as a grief worker and bits of traditional wisdom to prepare you for anything that life can throw your way. Learn more about her work at corpusritual.com.