"I saw the words on an e-mail and thought whatever that is I had to learn it," Matty O'Shea says.
Those words were "Laughter Yoga Club," and a little digging turned up a YouTube video about the Laughter Yoga with Monty Python's John Cleese, which, in turn, led to O'Shea attending a seminar to become certified.
The Memphis Laughter Yoga Club, led by O'Shea, meets once a week for half-hour sessions to work through four points: exercises, rhythmic clapping, deep breathing, and childlike playfulness. Founded in 1995 by a doctor in India, there are now 6,000 such clubs around the world. This is a breath yoga practice without mats or floor exercises, and since the sessions are free, Laughter Yoga is referred to as a club rather than a class.
Practitioners work around the motto, "fake it 'til you make it." "The body doesn't know the difference between fake and natural laughter," O'Shea explains, adding that laughing increases oxygen and energy levels. "The concept is that anyone can laugh, no jokes required."
But O'Shea points out that it's hard for club members, who range in age in from "grandma to grandchild," not to truly laugh during the "play" exercises such as "Lion Laughter." She paints the picture: "Eyes wide, jaw dropped, tongue out. The hands form claws, and then roar!"
Memphis Area Laughter Yoga Club, Tuesdays, 5:30-6 p.m. at the First Congregation Church. To inquire about becoming a club member, e-mail Matty O'Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org.