Laughter Yoga advocates childlike playfulness and that is wonderful, but what many don’t understand is that playfulness in the world of adults unfolds in at least three distinct stages. First you have to warm up to it, then you have to consolidate it, and then you can do what you want that is outside of the cultural context. If you miss that progression, your exercises will be invariably judged instead of experienced. It’s all about timing.

Here is a graphical representation of what I mean:

Progression of playfulness

At the start of a laughter session people’s inhibition levels are naturally high. This is a new activity and people they don’t know surround them. They must be eased into it. It is critical to first create the chemistry of play before you lead them into playful activities, otherwise judgments will settle in and the stronger these are the more they will downplay the value of the experience in the participants’ mind. Their mind will say it was “fun” but also, “Not for me. This is not how I want to define myself.”

This is unfortunate because laughter has so much to offer and we as human have so much to benefit from it.

What you can do to minimize this negative reaction includes:

  • Always start your laughter sessions by creating a strong context that explains and validates what is going to happen (e.g., “This is exercise, not comedy,” “Get ready for something different, “Laughter is a therapeutic ally in healing. We are going to simulate laughter now to stimulate its healing properties,” etc.)
  • Do not get too weird too fast! Wait at least ten minutes if you really want to bring on the bird laughter (behave and laugh like a bird) and other similar unconventional behaviors. They have their place and value but are counter-productive at the beginning of any session in general, and at any time in particular in groups where a majority of the participants are just discovering Laughter Yoga.
  • Get the book "505 Best of Laughter Exercises" or use a tool such as the Online Laughter Session Planner to prepare your sessions. There you will find hundreds of safe and sound exercises that can be used with anybody, anytime.