Danny Singh CLYT Italy: I was born and raised in London, but now based in Rome, gives creative English language lessons and teacher training courses all over Italy and abroad. On several occasions, I have met students who have reminded me of something that I taught them in the past, which they still remember to this day. The trigger has often been a humorous situation which led to smiles and laughs. It is well-known that laughter and humour are linked to emotion, which in turn aids memory. This is therefore a natural process of learning. We all remember those trivial moments which we would otherwise forget, when they are associated in some way with a highly emotional event, be it, good or bad.
Laughter Yoga and learning
A short 15-20 minute session of laughter yoga at the beginning of a lesson gets the blood flowing and creates endorphins, energy and enthusiasm. It opens up the creative, right side of the brain, facilitating learning capacities. Any physical warm-up activity in theory, should have a similar effect. However, laughter yoga offers something more. It leads to physiological changes within your body. It puts you outside your comfort zone, by initially making you feel like an idiot, but then you realise that everyone else is in the same boat, so you play along. Once you’ve done a short session of laughter yoga, you are willing to do more or less anything that the teacher throws at you.
Nothing else that the teacher asks you to do will be even half as embarrassing! You’ve got passed that stage. Any inhibitions that you might have had are also eroded. Shy students especially benefit from this activity, not always immediately, but certainly, in the long-term.
Being outside your comfort zone gives you the opportunity to learn more. We always observe and notice things when we are abroad in a “strange country” outside our normal routine. When we are at home, we just go through the motions, automatically, while our mind wanders onto other matters and we therefore fail to notice what is going on around us.
As the student is now willing to do anything, he/she is ready to be active, involved and learn by doing, rather than passively sitting back absorbing just about 10% of what is discussed. The student’s mind is working creatively and therefore looking at solutions from a variety of angles.
The best way to demonstrate this creativity is to get your students into groups (after they’ve done at least five/six laughs) and ask them to invent their own laugh, one laugh per group. You’ll see from what they produce just how creative they’ve become.
Another important aspect of learning is the group. Students learn from each other, not only from the teacher. In order to facilitate this, students must have a high respect for each other, as well as good and harmonious relations. Laughter Yoga produces this! When a student laughs with another student, it is quite difficult to hate or be angry with him/her. It helps group dynamics and team building. Students become keener to work together, learn from each other and this in turn, aids learning.
The best learners are young children. They don’t analyse everything, ask too many questions, or judge things with the same prejudices that adults often have. They take things as they come, learning in a natural way. Laughter Yoga brings out that childish, infantile part of you that society has tried to eliminate from you, as you grow up. The creative adult is in fact, the child who has survived. As you become and feel like a child, you learn in the same way as a child and therefore learn better.
I have now been using Laughter Yoga in my English lessons for about eight years. When I began, it was initially considered a little strange to say the least, however, students themselves have now begun to see and feel the benefits and so expect it. It is now an intrinsic part of my lesson. It allows me to manage the group, stimulate learning skills and creativity. My students do everything I ask them to do. The more outside the comfort zone, the better! Shy students lose their inhibitions and become proactive, take the initiative and even become leaders in the group. This in turn encourages self-confidence and expression. Students produce more, as they are happy.
Laughter Yoga is one of the most powerful tools that can be used with students of all ages, all levels in all subjects in all schools, colleges and universities, in order to facilitate learning skills and development.
For those who would like more detailed information on this subject, I would highly recommend you read the following two articles which can be read and printed from my website. I would also suggest watching the 10 minute video lesson on the WebTV www.inmagicartwebtv.eu series, A short taste of English, entitled Laughter Yoga.
Laughter Yoga in English language teaching
Laughter is a serious business