‘With 10%-20% of laughter preceded by anything joke like’, ‘laughter is primarily a social vocalization that binds people together’- Robert Provine

 Laughter comes as an involuntary arising for us all, gracing us with a rush of positive sensation both physically and emotionally. Some people laugh easily even compulsively, while others find it a rare expression. As if weighed down by an invisible blanket of rationality, we can seem out of step with the lightheartedness of laughter.

Regardless of which camp we find ourselves in, yoga suggests that we can increase our frequency and capacity to laugh, conditioning our bodies and minds for when the opportunity arises.

 

Omrange

 

Laughter, though seemingly random at first glance, has common patterns within societies across the globe. Here are some of the intriguing highlights that sociologists have discovered.

  • Men are commonly the instigators of humor, with woman laughing 126% more then men in cross gender conversations.
  • Romantically it is the laughter of the female not the male that is critical to a healthy cross-gender relationship.
  • Men are more interested in women who laugh heartily in their presence. (1)

Not only is laughter a joy to behold, science has discovered that laughter brings with it a treasure trove of physical benefits.

  • Our pain threshold significantly increases after laughter (2)
  • Mirthful laughter decreases cortisol and adrenaline while boasting the body’s tumour eating ‘natural killer cells’. (3)
  • Laughter Yoga is as effective in decreasing depression in the elderly as group exercise. (4)

In 1995 Dr Madan Kataria introduced Laughter or (Hasya) Yoga. With claims that a practice of prolonged voluntary laughter leads to real & contagious laughter, the movement spread quickly, now with over 8000 ‘laughter clubs’ in 100 countries worldwide.

The technique has 4 steps. Each session follows these steps in the order suggested.

  • Clapping- awakens dormant energy in the person and the environment around them.
  • Breathing- circulates this energy throughout the body; balances brain function while opening the diaphragm.
  • Childlike Playfulness- takes us from the rational ‘make me laugh adult mindset’ into the gleeful and spontaneous perspective of the child.
  • Laughter Yoga Practices- emulates the action of laughing, exercises the muscles involved in laughter while progressively stimulating the hormones involved in laughing.

I personally have gained the most from these techniques not in a group session but with a friend.  A laughter partner can give you the safe space to practice the art of rolling with the intention to laugh.  I selected a friend that I naturally felt an affinity with and regularly met with this person to perform the steps.  To my surprise I have become a surfer of laughter, able to feel an opportunity arising, catching the wave and ridding it for all its worth.

(1)        University of Vienna

(2)        Oxford University

(3)        Tabatabai University

(4)        University of California

For many people what bookends the day is the ritual of oral hygiene. Performed so often, this once insurmountable task has become an unconscious act rarely thought of even in the midst of its performance.

In the world of yoga every action has been developed to optimize its awakening effect both physically, mentally and spiritually. To clean the mouth is to clear the mind and stimulate the ability to perceive taste, smell and intuition. Prayers uttered with a readied mouth speak deeply to the inner heart and higher mind.

 

horse sticking out tongue

 

Technic:

You may have noticed a white coating on many a person’s tongue. This foul deposit can be reintroduced into the body unless manually removed. Either purchase a tongue scraper from a health food store or simply use a sharp edged spoon. Start from the back and move forward, scraping the surface of the tongue, taking care not to hurt the sensitive area at its root. Repeat morning and at bedtime.

Note* It is traditional to use a silver spoon as it amplifies the mental or moon aspect of the self.

 

We are on our spiritual journey from the moment we first consider that our experiences in life can be influenced by personal action. Moving from a passive effect to an active cause within our own mind, body and circumstances is the essence of yogic responsibility. It is only a matter of time and consistent, productive action that our deepest aspirations will fulfill our true needs; this is a surety.

Complexity can be a hindrance to inner power and the mind is an expert at generating unending extrapolations of thought. We, the self must buffer our own mind from it self. We must become our own sheep dog, returning stray considerations back to the reality of the moment.

In Yoga the ‘heat’, or tapas of concentration is considered essential to generating influential thoughts and feelings. This heat proves impossible so long as mental tension acts to diffuse our capacity for one-pointed attention. The process of recovering the power of concentration cannot be forced or rushed. It must be allowed to emerge naturally through simple meditation practices.

Candle Flame

One particularly effective method for the cultivation of mental empowerment is Trataka or single point gazing. The eyes are by far the most dominating of the senses. We can use this to our advantage by giving the eyes an object that is attractive, uplifting and absorbing. Mesmerize the eyes and the fragmented mind is soon to follow.

 

Trataka basic technique:

- Light a candle on a table in a room with no draft. The candle should be arms length away and eye level. The flame should be still.

- Close the eyes and relax the whole body, especially the eyes.

- Be aware of body steadiness for a few minutes. Keep the body absolutely still throughout the practice.

- Open the eyes and gaze steadily at the flame.

- Try not to blink or move the eyeballs in any way.

- Do not strain as this will cause tension and the eyes will flicker.

- The awareness should be so completely centered on the flame that body awareness is lost.

- If the mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to the practice.

- After a minute or two, when the eyes become tired or begin to water, close them gently.

- Gaze at the after-image of the flame in the space in front of the closed eyes. If the image moves up or  down, or from side to side, observe it and try to stabilize it.

- When the image can no longer be retained, gently open the eyes and gaze at the flame once more.

- Repeat the procedure for external gazing.

- Close the eyes once more and gaze at the inner image.

- Continue in this way 3 or 4 times.

 

*These instructions drawn from the work of Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

The hounds of winter are howling in the wind, telling us for certain that the cold season is upon us. Taking these 3 steps will help bring comfort, immunity, and happiness in the long months to follow.

IMG_0257• Warm up to warm drinking water. Warm water calms the mind and greatly assists digestion. Cold water is often not appealing to people in colder months. This and the lower humidity that winter brings often leads to dehydration.

• Don the long john and remember how it feels to relax. Even when wearing a warm coat, failing to keep our lower extremities warm in colder months can lead to low-grade anxiety, disassociation and lowered immune response.
• Shred the ginger and feel alive! Ginger is one of nature’s super foods. An anti cancer, anti arthritic, immune stimulator it is more then just an effective way of warming you up on a cold day. Studies have shown ginger brings relief to a wide variety of conditions including menstrual pain, migraines, liver damage and high blood pressure.


bluebu

Breath is the vehicle for consciousness within the human body. What is consciousness in this context? It is the act of registry. The spark that registers and experiences the moment in a lucid and conscious way. This spark is carried within the breath.

It is a logical next step to consider what effect the quality of our breathing has on our consciousness. It has a profound effect most definitely. When you breath is quick and shallow, your experience of the moment becomes limited. The richness and profundity that is natural to the human is lost.  As we expand and lengthen the breath, we encourage the consciousness to stretch out and function in its deeper more subtle capacities. Synchronizing the breadth with movements of the body directs or shuttles the consciousness into the body itself.

IMG_0388.JPG

A view of the lush canopy from one of my favourite perches. Nestled within the trees is one of my favourite places to breathe!

 Over time and practice we will gain a full and complete experience of our mind within our body. This brings euphoria, ability, and great peace; the peace that only comes from discovering  mastering and expressing our deeper nature.   Tantra provides enumerable technics for every person in any situation. In its truest sense, Tantra is a global culture with practitioners arising from every community across the globe. Tantra has emerged from the desire for human beings to live as a synchronized, distinguished and exceptional whole.

Technic:

Stage 1: There are many breathing technics. In the beginning the aspirant should focus their efforts in short bursts limiting there seated practice to 5-10 minutes. After the body is settled into some degree of stillness our attention should move to witnessing the current spontaneous respiration pattern. Do not rush through this activity. For observing the current breath cycle can be  healing in and of it self.

 

Stage 2: Once the respiration is observed for some time we can then move to deepen the breath cycles. Lengthening both the inhalation and exhalation.

Our mind floats in a space of rational and relative hypothesis. Without solid markers of measurement for our bodily cycles we often languish in perpetual and static unconsciousness. Therefore counting the duration of our breathing is the easiest way to bring rapid focus and spontaneous deepening within our respiration.

Make it a goal at this point to breath in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 5. If this proves easeful, increase the count to inhaling for a count of 10 and out for a count of 10. Once you have arrived at a count of 10 for the inhale stay at 10 and only increase your length of exhalation from this point onwards. Work to increase the exhalation to the count of 20.

If it is only possible for you to inhale for example a count of 7 and out for a count of 8 then continue with the goal of 10 and 10 yet stay within your current limits. We are stretching subtle muscles both physically and psychically. This cultivation must occur gradually and within the spirit of acceptance and mature aspiration.

 

Valley of Meditation

 

In an age of shock and awe it is tempting to lose the application of accessible, progressive activity. Invest 10 minutes of your day and don’t let the din of this crazy circus take your breath away.