Have you ever burst out laughing in a yoga class? Or stifled a giggle? Or bit your lip to squelch a guffaw? Yoga can be pretty funny. Sometimes even seriously hilarious.
Yoga teachers ask us to be aware – aware of our breath, aware of our body, aware of our mind. I guess on this particular day I wasn’t in the mood to follow instructions. I followed the sequence the teacher dictated but ignored the very detailed guidance to focus on the micro alignment of my toe knuckles, and to rotate an extra millimeter to feel synovial fluid flow through fascial release, and to sigh with all the other moaners in the room on cue.
I just moved.
There were sixty students mat to mat in a humid room with strong overhead lighting beaming down on us. I couldn’t see the teacher way up at the front of the room without my glasses. I brought my focus to the narrow navy blue rectangle below me, my allotted space.
In adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog) I looked down at my shadow. I saw an antique oil lamp on my mat. My hips were the base (round and stable), my torso the body (rippled like my shirt around my waist), my head the wick, and my arms were the glass enclosure reaching up leaving space for the light. I moved my head to flicker the flame and laughed at myself a little.
On all fours we stretched one arm to the front and one leg to the back, balancing. The shadow of the foot of the person in front of me landed right into the shadow of my palm. I tickled her shadow foot with my shadow hand. I wondered if she could feel it. I imagined my son uncontrollably laughing when tickled. I smiled.
As we sat in gomukhasana (cow face pose), arms and legs pretzeled. I slowly leaned forward and saw seven big round splashes of sweat all in a row, lined up exactly like the chakras. The biggest splash was over the imaginary heart chakra. At least I was sweating in alignment.
After bhujangasana (cobra pose) we pushed back to sit in vajrasana and I noticed the sweaty mark I had left from laying on my chest. I giggled. Two big circles with an extra big blotch in the middle of each, like cartoon eyes, and a little round nose. My little cartoon guy stared up at me unwavering with his big eyes. I smiled back at him.
I laughed at myself and at the practice. My body felt warm and steady, my breath slow and calm, my mind content. Not focusing had been a wonderful practice. Feeling instead of thinking, being present to see the unexpected had made me smile.
Sometimes the best way to still the mind is to laugh. One of my favorite things is laughing meditation. You get comfortable and then you laugh and laugh and laugh. You laugh everything out of you – thoughts, feelings, tension – and when the laughter stops you are left completely still. It’s a very deep practice.
Laughing is yoga.