Yoga: A Path of Building Mental Resilience while Having Fun!
Similar to the roaring 1920s after the 1918 flu pandemic, many of us are eager to engage in more self-care, as well as more fun, to help us separate ourselves from the unpleasantness of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yoga, through movement and exercise, is an excellent way to restore our mental resilience while having a bit of fun at the same time.
When we authentically smile, our body releases the “feel good” hormones dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Laughter accelerates this benefit even further by mitigating stress and potentially mitigating against depression by lowering levels of cortisol, epinephrine, growth hormone, and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid.
Laughing yoga incorporates various movements and breathing exercises to promote intentional laughter. The founder, Madan Kataria, a family physician in Mumbai, India, claims that this unique type of yoga will help lift our mood, reduce stress, strengthen our immune system, increase energy levels, in addition to a host of additional benefits.
The controlled breathing that is a component of this practice helps stimulate our parasympathetic system, which is our body’s relaxation system—a system in our body that helps soothe our stress and the “fight or flight” response from our sympathetic system.
When we relieve feelings of anxiety and stress, optimism and hope have more space in our lives to thrive. Through a combination of invigorated laughter, the benefits of the practice’s poses, and pranayamas (otherwise known as breathing exercises)—laughing yoga is believed to help remedy physical, psychological, and spiritual ailments.
Goat Yoga for Having Fun
If forcing yourself to laugh feels contrived, then maybe give goat yoga a try instead. Trying to bob and weave through asanas as goats roam around your yoga class might just be the type of fun that brings about a genuine giggle.
Described as “low maintenance dogs” in an article in the LA Times, the science that supports that companion animals have positive therapeutic effects on stress for humans likely applies to this style of mind-body practice. Research from John Hopkins showed that being affectionate with our canine friends lowers our cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) levels. Social interaction with animals also increases levels of oxytocin (a hormone associated with pleasure). Although goats are not puppies, one can infer that engagement with any cute animal will likely reduce our stress.
“Yoga goats” are typically baby goats, which helps with the element of fun and cuteness as they dutifully submit to hugs and selfies. Typically there is a bountiful amount of child and tabletop poses in goat yoga. These types of poses provide the opportunity for the small creatures to literally come along for the ride and hop onto the practitioners’ backs—enticing delight throughout.
With everything from goat yoga Airbnbs to goat yoga happy hours, one can’t take themselves too seriously when you’re mingling with tiny goats—with each twist, turn, and laugh, your stress naturally melts away.
Mood-boosters come in many forms, and while some people have joy restored through peace, tranquility, or laughter, others need a cathartic release to get themselves back to baseline. For those of the latter category, there is rage yoga, or “alternative yoga for the modern badass,” as founder Lindsay Istace describes it.
So, how does embodying rage and cursing equate to restoring our feel-good brain chemicals? According to psychotherapist Courtney Glashow, founder of Anchor Therapy in Hoboken, New Jersey, cursing can actually translate to an emotional release.
In an interview, Glashow said, “In the right setting, I believe that cursing can be therapeutic because it can allow us to let our anger out—we get to use specific words to express ourselves.”
Rage yoga can also help reduce some of the trepidation for those who have been scared off by traditional yogic atmospheres. A safe space that provides a fun way to express yourself in a way that feels genuine (in a non-judgemental environment), this form of yoga still embodies all of the traditional components of the practice, such as postures and breathing exercises. Rage yoga simply consists of bonus add-ons of the occasional war cries, dirty jokes, heavy metal head-banging music, creative cursing, and sometimes even the occasional cocktail.
Rage Yoga is an ironic juxtaposition of two very different ways to decompress, but it might be just the ticket to revitalizing stability for you. Who knows, maybe going to a class where everyone can collectively let their freak flags fly will inspire a bit of laughter, too—further encouraging the release of dopamine and improving one’s mood.
Have Fun with Yoga Practice
Yoga has always been a means to find balance, both literally and figuratively. Still, by having a bit of fun with the practice as well, those of us who are not drawn to traditional methods might find with a joyful reframe of the practice, we actually love it. Rather than giving into the facade of solicited seductions of easy fixes that are so strategically advertised to us by modern-day society, why not find some equilibrium through movement and fun? With better control over your mind and body—while having some fun in the process—you’ll have a delightful new way of taking care of your holistic well-being.
Michael Rucker, Ph.D. is a long-time advocate of positive psychology and a charter member of the International Positive Psychology Association. He received a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from Alliant International University in San Diego. Rucker authored the book The Fun Habit, which offers a practical reframing of positive psychology, making the case that we should cultivate the habit of fun to bring a greater sense of happiness and joy to our lives.
Dr. Mike Rucker is the author of The Fun Habit, a book offering a practical reframing of positive psychology, making the case that we should cultivate the habit of fun to bring a greater sense of joy and wonder to our lives. The Fun Habit is set to release in early summer 2022.