Monday, 6 May 2013

Laughter yoga, Bereaved Mother's Day, and the messy truth of life

Over the weekend, as I promised myself I would do, I tried to find ways to overcome the spring blues which I've been battling these past days. This nascent spring summer! is too beautiful not to enjoy, and the perfect opportunity to move beyond the bounds of my comfortable funk presented itself.

Yesterday, to mark World Laughter Day my yoga instructor organized a taster of laughter yoga, a movement with which I have long been intrigued but have not had the chance to enjoy. Based largely on the medical knowledge that your mind and body benefit hugely from smiling and laughing - whether it's genuine or contrived - the laughter yoga movement begun in India is intended as a 'positive manifestation for world peace and to build up a global consciousness of brotherhood and friendship through laughter'. Nice, right? So although I wasn't in the mood, I cajoled myself into an afternoon of merriment with perfect strangers. Because that's the point of laughter yoga from a health perspective: studies suggest that you can actually 'trick' yourself into happiness even through forcing a laugh, and that you should do so as a means to build community too.

In addition to the kinds of breathing exercizes that are part of traditional yoga, and various absurdist activities in which one really couldn't help but laugh in the end, completely and authentically, our instructor shared some of the science behind the practice. We were taught how laughter-on-command can ease the stress of lots of little situations we all encounter in life; you know those moments that make you grit your teeth and set your muscles tighter and generally growl inwardly? The example used was hitting a red light in traffic. Just laugh hysterically at the light, she said, and you'll soon find it no longer holds the same toxic grip over you.

Since I don't drive, and (being routinely 10 minutes late for everything ever) I have come to accept that such small delays are not the mortal enemy, I don't much have a problem with red lights. But truthfully friends, (bad Sadie! I know!) for the briefest of moments, my infertility-addled brain actually wandered to the possibility of applying that same hysterical laughing technique to the legions of pregnant bellies which seem to accost me on a daily basis.

Hhhmm...guess that wouldn't really be in keeping with the laughter yoga mantra that we are always laughing with, right?

Of course I would never do that. Not really. I'm not going to live up to the archetypal, misogynistic evil-cackling-madwoman-who-never-fulfilled-her-maternal-instincts-and-is-therefore-dangerous bit that our culture still nurtures. Because, well...obviously. That would be too easy.

Anyway, where was I?

We also learned that on average, children laugh 300 times per day, where adults laugh on average 15 times per day. Just, wow....something is clearly getting lost along the way, so whatever we can do to restore it, even if I'm the first to indulge in the occasional bout of duvet diving, can't be a bad thing.

Sometimes laughter really is the only medicine. And you know, with my belly muscles pleasantly straining after one and half hours of mandated laughter, I actually felt not just emotionally lighter, but physically euphoric for several hours afterwards.



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It was only on my return home later in the afternoon, after a long and lovely walk, when I learned through several bloggy friends that yesterday was also International Bereaved Mother's Day. At first I wasn't sure what to make of that perhaps cruelly random juxtaposition of days to simultaneously mark such seemingly opposing sentiments: laughter and dead babies. Then I thought, actually, it's quite true to life. And maybe they're not as opposing as they might first appear.

Much as I once might have implored it to - much as I feel at times that mine has - life has not stopped since S died, since we started on this scary, uncertain road of infertility. Much to my own surprise, and despite the brokenness from which I once thought I would never recover, I have gone on laughing (though you'd be forgiven for not believing that if you stumble upon this blog on any given day). I cry, I laugh, I breath. I am alive and he is not. I owe him the full life - to accept, inhabit, embrace it - that he cannot and never will have. And despite the realities of birth and death, we remain connected. I try to remind myself of those things every day.

There was one thing about yesterday which somehow, serendipitously, brought all these sentiments together. The laughter yoga class was held on the grounds of a beautiful medieval convent which remains in use today. It is filled with tranquil gardens designed to bring peace, to foster the contemplation of life's great mysteries (or at least so it seemed to me). Just being there was a special experience. And the lawn on which we sat and moved and breathed and laughed among strangers was also home to this beautiful flowering tree. A memory tree.


The sign under it's branches instructed us to: Tie a ribbon on the tree and remember someone special.

And the next time I visit the lawn to sit and laugh with strangers, I will do just that.

28 comments:

  1. So glad to hear that laugh-yoga was helpful for you. I'd heard of it too but never tried it. I'm just a little surprised to fake even fake laughter can help. I guess it's a fake it til you make it situation.
    To be honest I smiled to myself at the image of you walking down the street LOLing at all the pregnant women. I'm not going to entirely exclude it from the list of healthy coping mechanisms. :o)

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    1. There's actually lots of research that shows the benefit of that 'fake it 'til you make it' approach, and having experienced it, I can see why.

      I guess as long as you're willing to get dirty looks, there's nothing stopping you from using that coping mechanism! I have to say, the thought of it alone was enough to make me smile :)

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  2. Oh my, I just loved this thought......"I owe him the full life - to accept, inhabit, embrace it - that he cannot and never will have. And despite the realities of birth and death, we remain connected. I try to remind myself of those things every day."

    I just read it to my husband and we both agree that our acceptance to live life to the fullest is completely in honor of our son.

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    1. It's something that really stays with you, isn't it. No matter what comes, or whether we ever have a living child, whenever I remind myself of that, he still motivates me to live eahc day completely. They providing amazing insights and lessons, our babies.

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  3. Awareness of our emotions is most important, I think. When we are faced with a bout of sadness, it will not take over for too long, if we are aware. Good for you for making such a strong effort to pull yourself through.

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    1. I find that I need to experience it all, and luckily my body seems to be quite good at keeping me on track; there will be days when I know it's good for me just to wallow and cry, and those are ususlly followed by days of genuine hope and happiness. I guess the trick is not to force any of it.

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  4. In the worst days after our failed FET, all I wanted to do was watch comedies (when I wasn't wallowing). And it absolutely made me feel better. I'm glad you found something that makes you feel better, too. And there's no rule saying you can't *smile* at the pregnant bellies--while laughing on the inside--even if you have to fake it.

    Also, that's a lovely tree and seems like a very special place to return to.

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    1. You're right, sometimes focussing on silly stuff - the more superficial the better - is really the only thing that lifts me. And to be honest, I have inwardly adopted that technique for dealing with the pregnant bellies since last weekend. It kinda helps!

      I'll definitely be returning to the tree; it was such a lovely discovery.

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  5. That's really lovely. I try to let myself feel everything. There was a time that laughter felt false, but now I try to let myself be sad when I'm sad but know that it's okay to be happy too.

    I love that tree. So beautiful, with all the memories. Let us know when you go back.

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    1. At the beginning, I definitely had to force myself to laugh. But eventually it came naturally again, and I think that my son has been an inspiration to me in embracing each day to the fullest (though I don't always succeed). I'll definitely return to the beautiful tree, and probably take lots of ribbons for lots of little ones.

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  6. Hello...I didn't know there was such a thing as a mother's day women like us actually get acknowledged in! I wish I'd known this yesterday and reached out to my online babyloss friends (my day started badly with an epically insensitive email from a friend who I was preg with at the same time. I was included in an excited round-robin update which I REALLY shouldn't have been, and REALLY think I shouldn't have had to be the one to point this out to her...sob...) so we could feel less lonely.

    Glad you found the sun and the laughter xxx

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    1. I'm so sorry you had to experience that crappy, thoughtless behaviour from your friend Nomi. People are just so clueless, and it took me forever just to shrug it off. I wish we didn't always have to be the strong, understanding ones. I hope you're feeling better my dear. Sending lots of love.

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  7. After Jacob died, I felt guilty when I laughed (very occasionally) but then I started to think that if I had died and he had lived I wouldn't have wanted him or others I left behind to be sad all the time. I'd want them to live life to the fullest, etc. it didn't make me happier to think that way, but it did make me feel less guilty when I did have a happy moment.

    I've heard of the laughing yoga. I'm g,ad that you got to do it and that it really does work

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    1. Jacob would *totally* want you to be happy, and I'm sure he's delighted with how things look for you now Dana. Remembering our sweet boys, together.

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  8. Laughter yoga sounds interesting. Sometimes, you just have to remind yourself that your body still knows how to express joy, even when you're not feeling it.

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    1. I think that's it exactly! Sometimes our bodies know better than our cluttered, confused brains, and the laughter yoga was really such a pure expression of that. I found it so uplifting.

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  9. Wow, laughter yoga sounds great!! I should try it :)It's interesting that we can find such comfort in the presence of strangers. There's a strength that we can find in being anonymous.

    This is a beautiful post. We have to be aware of our emotions. Own them. Really feel them. I think that is the only way we can move on...

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    1. I would definitely recommend it! If you click on that first link I give, there are listings of laughter yoga clubs all over the world. Being anonymous can be quite freeing, but once you get started, the high is so natural that you stop caring. (or so I found).

      I think you're so right that the only way to really process our emotions is to go through them. Sometimes that sucks, but it's cleansing too.

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  10. I've heard of many health benefits linked to laughing and smiling more, even if it is forced and not "natural". Some days it does help me to watch a funny movie and just laugh. I think like crying, it just releases something inside you. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post... I'm really intrigued about laughing yoga now :)

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    1. I suspect you're right Catherine; laughing and crying are really flip sides of the same coin, and such natural ways for the body to release built up emotion. I would totally recommend giving laughter yoga a try!

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  11. That tree is so sweet! It brought tears to my eyes. I so want to do laughter yoga. I've decided I need to focus more on laughing after reading your post.

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    1. Thanks Jessah. It's so important to be reminded of the healing properties of laughter, which kind of forces you to be right in the now. I think for many of us in this battle, it could be so useful to set aside a particular time, an hour eahc week to just sit and laugh. I really believe it helps!

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  12. Your thoughts about laughing at all the pregnant bellies made me laugh. Thank you. :)

    In a yoga class I took last year, the teacher surprised us with a period of laughter yoga. I went from thinking "this is silly" (scowl) to "this is silly" (smile), and that moment of choosing to let go was very freeing. It's probably a skill that, like any other, we can develop more with practice. Plus it feels good. So why not?

    How interesting that Mother's Day was created to honor a bereaved mother. Also ... that tree is just beautiful, as is what you said about embracing life, in all its messiness, since losing S.

    Wishing you a peaceful spring...

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  13. I really love the way you discuss this kind of topic

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    1. Thank you for your comment, and for stopping by!

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  14. Thanks for sharing the idea there would be some apprehensions from segment but i am up for it.

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