Laughter can be heard coming from this dance studio in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, where yoga is being taught.
But the pupils aren’t necessary laughing with joy from rush of blood while doing the Downward Dog.
The class, taught by Sabine Jizi, encourages students to do one simple thing, and that is to laugh.
22 year-old Jizi elaborated on the therapeutic effect of laughing without a purpose.
"Laughter Yoga is about breathing and laughing exercises that makes any person laugh without a reason, without comedy or jokes, talking is not allowed in Laughter Yoga. It all started after a scientific study that says human body does not differentiate between a fake and a real laugh, in both cases we get the same health benefits.”
This form of unconventional yoga first gained popularity in the 1990’s by Indian physician, Madan Kataria.
Jizi introduced Beirut’s first Laughter Yoga session in August and runs every Sunday since its launch. She stumbled upon the idea by pure chance, and headed to Germany to learn the techniques.
"I got the whole idea by coincidence, I was surfing the internet and read the word 'laughter yoga' by mistake. I loved its concept after researching about it, and considered it a great project to bring to Lebanon since Lebanese people don't laugh enough," says Jizi.
The class involves some warm-up stretches and chanting, followed by a segment of mandatory laughter.
Fake it until you make it, says Laughter Yoga’s slogan, and while participants initially feel silly, the contagious and remedial nature of laughter catches on to them.
"It helped me relax and be more positive. When facing stress or any negative thing, I think about Laughter Yoga and laugh," says Nagham Hammoud.
According to Jizi, Lebanon is the first country in the Middle East to host Laughter Yoga. Aside classes at the dance studio, she also runs private sessions for companies and educational institutions, who believe laughter is indeed the best medicine.
Sabine Jizi - Laughter Yoga instructor
Nagham Hamoud - participant