"There are many ways of purifying the mind and body and opening the eye of the mind. What you must do is, firstly, laugh and have the mind of gratitude and, secondly, give up all your ideas about yourself."
Dr Masahiro Oki
If you are looking for a yoga class you will usually come across schools offering ashtanga, Iyengar or hatha yoga. But if your karma is ripe for having a good chuckle, you may find yourself choosing Oki-do, the only yoga school which emphasises one of life’s greatest gifts – laughter.
Oki-do yoga was founded on the teachings of Japanese teacher, healer and writer Masahiro Oki (1921-1985) and combines his rich understanding and experience of martial arts, yoga, and eastern spiritual and healing practices. Oki-do is inspired by the knowledge that we each have an inner life force that preserves and enriches our energy when we connect with it.
The main tenet of Oki-do is that our potential is much greater than we think. Whilst all yoga disciplines teach skills to gradually develop poses that we may have considered beyond our reach, Oki-do uses laughter to distract students from fear, frustration or limiting perceptions. Students may find themselves laughing their way into a pose even before they think, I can’t do that!
As well as developing general health and fitness, Oki-do is suitable for assisting students to improve posture and correct alignment. The poses develop physical and mental strength, and are learnt in an atmosphere of love, gratitude and support.
Whilst Oki-do will push your laughter buttons, the practice also develops discipline and may include meditation, fasting, and other health-related practices to develop wellbeing at every level, and a lifestyle that supports it.
According to one student, Oki-do is not about being serious. “It’s about relaxing and enjoying your body, developing dexterity and strength, and trying to balance in new ways without feeling frustrated and disappointed.
“Laughing is a big part. One of the exercises that we do that causes lots of laughter is all lying face down in a row and taking turns to roll over the top of all the others.”
Recapturing a child-like quality was one of the things that attracted Oki-do teacher Gail Sheppard.
“One of the best things I love about Oki-do yoga is it brings out the child-like quality in people, and sometimes weve lost that in our day-to-day life. It brings out joy and laughter, and also the sense of community and working together.”
A unique and inspiring feature of Oki-do yoga is working with partners to develop strength, flexibility and communication. Partners assist each other to perform stretching exercises and use each other’s bodies for support and balance in more difficult poses.
This interaction develops a sense of community as students watch each other grow in confidence, strength and stability. Partner work may include exploring barriers that you face in relating to others. Look out! You may end up working with a partner you don’t want to work with. This can be a great opportunity.
“Sometimes it can be a challenge. The idea is to work with people that you may not want to work with, or you dont normally work together, so you create harmony.”