Wellbeing: Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

by Emily Mattin RLC Blog

November 21, 2023

“The criminal bar is a notoriously stressful place. At Red Lion we have a strong commitment to promoting wellbeing and having a bit of fun! This year our wellbeing committee has already organised a colourful range of activities for our members, from takeaway nights, to art classes and scavenger hunts across London”.

This month we decided to test out the old adage that “laughter is the best medicine” and combine laughter therapy with a more well established wellness activity – yoga.

Laughter yoga, or Hasya yoga, was founded in India by Indian physician Madan Kataria. It is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter.

I’m not sure what I thought the class would involve, but I certainly hadn’t envisaged myself playing “laughter what’s the time Mr Wolf” with fellow members of chambers at 7pm on a Thursday evening.

The session began with our instructor Odette Kurland aka “Lady Haha”, taking us through warmups for the body and mind through series of ice breaker games (maybe she could read my anxious body language).

Then, we did simple stretching mixed with clapping, chanting and movements, such as swinging our arms from side to side while clapping and chanting—“ho, ho, ha-ha-ha”.

After this, we did a number of simple improv-like games. We were led through deep breathing, placing our hands on our diaphragm. Odette told us about the well documented benefits of deep breathing. Despite this, we apparently use a small percentage of our lung capacity (about 25%) in our day to day breathing.

Odette Kurland said “Breathing is so important for a healthy body, heart and mind. Laughter is in the main exhaling and we are totally exercising our lungs and expanding our lung capacity. It is a workout for mind, body and soul. We are also getting the same benefits as we do from gentle aerobic exercise.”

After some initial awkwardness, forced laughter turned into spontaneous fits of real giggles.

At the conclusion of the class, we were advised to try laughing in any scenario we found ourselves getting stressed in. I’m not sure how practical that would be in a busy robing room but the breathing techniques were a simple and effective tool for de-stressing. Odette concluded:

“I love that Red Lion Chambers have been so open to trying laughter as a wellbeing tool.  There really is nothing out there with such instant results to help with very stressful jobs.”

Despite the class being just an hour, I came out feeling refreshed and less stressed. I would recommend anyone at the bar to give it a try. Just no video evidence, please!”

 Find out more about Odette Kurland aka Lady HaHa who runs Laughter Yoga Wellness UK which includes Workshops and a Training Academy here: [laughter yoga wellness]