Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine……..
Laughter Yoga expands on our need to laugh and bring more joy into our lives by being a fun and unique ‘wellbeing’ exercise routine which combines unconditional laughter exercises with yogic breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can laugh and Laughter Yoga proves they don’t have to rely on comedy, jokes or any kind of particular humour; they just have to be willing to participate in the simulated exercises in a group and they may be surprised how easily they will find natural laughter follows.
There are the wonderful benefits participation in Laughter Yoga can offer your body, mind & spirit!
Normal hearty laughing can actually provide us with a gentle form of aerobic exercise and I should imagine everyone has heard the adage that ‘Laughter is the best medicine’. Many of us do not laugh enough or indeed if we live alone, feel we have the opportunity to laugh; it is proven that many children laugh many times a day but as we mature we sometimes become more inhibited and laughter does not come so naturally.
Physical exercise can present a real problem for many of us, but laughter can provide us with some of the benefits in a very gentle way: increasing our blood flow, helping to keep our heart active and expanding the capacity of our lungs to name just a few.
Laughter has many benefits for our body and mind and thats why Laughter Yoga can have a positive influence on our wellbeing.
I’ll let the word speak for itself below:
- L aughter releases endorphins (feel-good hormones)
- A cts as aerobic exercise
- U nleashes inhibitions (is a )
- G reat team building tool
- H elps boost our immune system
- T ones our muscles
- E ncourages positive thinking (and)
- R elaxes the whole body
Scientifically Proven Benefits of Laughter Yoga
Clinical research on Laughter Yoga methods, conducted at the University of Graz in Austria; Bangalore, India, and in the United States has proven that there are benefits of laughter yoga that include, significantly lowers the level of stress hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline) in the blood.
Also, that laughter fosters a positive and hopeful attitude and if one is able to laugh away their troubles, it is less likely they will succumb to stress and feelings of depression and helplessness.
Why is it called Laughter Yoga and not simply Laughter Therapy?
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root Yuj which means to get hold of or harmonise and integrate. This means getting a hold on our lives and integrating all aspects of life, harmonising our bodies with our minds, our spirits and with society.
There are many different types of Yoga, Hatha Yoga being primarily concerned with balancing the energies through body postures or Asanas, Karma Yoga dealing with actions of selfless service, kindness and generosity with others having primary aims.
According to yogic philosophy, we are alive because the cosmic energy from the universe flows into our body through our breath, which is the life energy force or ‘Prana’, the essence of life.
Pranayamic breathing has a powerful and immediate effect on our physiology and has been used for over four thousand years by practitioners to influence the body, mind and emotions; daily stresses and resulting negative emotions can affect our breathing and make it become irregular and shallow and this, in turn, affects the flow of Prana through our body.
Dr Kataria and his wife Madhuri incorporated Pranayamic breathing into their laughter exercises for the specific benefits they offer; so it is very important to them that this therapy is called Laughter Yoga.
The History Of Laughter Yoga
Many individuals have contributed to the history of modern therapeutic laughter – Norman Cousins, Dr William Fry, Dr Lee Berk and Dr Hunter (Patch) Adams to name a few – but it is important to realise that all of these have relied on the use of humour to create and/or to study the effect of laughter. In March 1995, Dr Madan Kataria, an Indian Cardiologist – pictured centre above- was writing an article called ‘Laughter – The Best Medicine’ for a health journal.
During his research, he’d discovered many modern scientific studies describing the many proven benefits of laughter on the human mind and body. He was particularly impressed by the book ‘An Anatomy of an Illness’ written in 1979 by Norman Cousins and research work carried out by Dr Lee Berk which highlighted proven benefits of humour on cardiac patients.
This all inspired Dr Kataria to set out to ‘field-test’ the impact of laughter on himself and others and ultimately led to the formation of his first Laughter Club which consisted of just 5 voluntary members.
Initially he used established ways of making this group laugh with members telling jokes and the like. The participants reported feeling good for the rest of the day after sharing time laughing and Dr Kataria could tell he was onto a winner.
Unfortunately, in time the jokes ran out and some members started using material their peers found offensive and the Laughter clubs did not seem so funny to all. Dr Kataria asked his volunteers to give him some time to find a solution and from studying his research he made a huge breakthrough by realising that our brains cannot actually differentiate between acted-out and genuine laughter.
This breakthrough led Dr Kataria to develop a range of laughter exercises which employed elements of role-play and child-like playfulness. He took this further when he and his wife Madhuri Kataria, (his co-founder of Laughter Yoga) both Yoga practitioners realised there were similarities between laughter and Pranayama exercises and decided to incorporate the deep breathing techniques of the latter to deepen the impact.
The result was the formation of Laughter Yoga a blend of laughter exercises, yogic deep breathing and stretching combined with being willing to cultivate child-like playfulness while maintaining eye contact with other members of the group., which in turn leads to natural spontaneous laughter within the group.
Life Changing Experiences With Laughter Yoga
Throughout India, thousands of Laughter Yoga Clubs meet every morning in public parks. Most Laughter Club members proudly report that they have not missed a day in five years or more. They say the experience makes them happy, healthy and energised – effecting a transformation in their lives. Attending daily Laughter Yoga sessions produces positive energy that helps participants cope with the stress of daily life and saves them from depression.
In fact, the impact of laughter is so profound that many practitioners claim they no longer need anti-depressants. The sustained positive emotions keep them going back for more.
Participants of Laughter Yoga report significant general health improvements. Many report a reduction in the frequency of respiratory infections such as the common cold and flu, and some others reported overcoming depression or relief/cure from chronic medical problems.
With people’s committed participation, Laughter Yoga has helped many people become healthier. Laughter Yoga’s benefits and the simple fact that people enjoyed doing it so much meant that it quickly spread and what started as a group of just 5 people in 1995, has now spread worldwide and there are now more than 5,000 Laughter Clubs in over 55 countries.
Laughter Yoga Clubs
Laughter Yoga clubs are social clubs where people get together to do Laughter Yoga which encompasses different laughter, breathing and stretching exercises with participants being encouraged to let their child-like playfulness come to the fore.
Eye-contact with fellow group members is encouraged as it helps to convert fake laughter into real laughter, with the ultimate objective being to bring good health and joy through the medium of laughter. The aim of the formation of these groups is to provide a rich social network.
Is Laughter Yoga suitable for everyone?
Laughter Yoga does not purport to be a miracle cure and should not be considered as a substitute for medical consultation for all types of illness but it is a powerful natural complementary form of healing.
Although laughter is natural, it does involve some physical strain and a rise in intra-abdominal pressure; so Laughter Yoga could be contraindicated for people who suffer from diseases that are in a severe or uncontrolled stage such as:
- Advanced (bleeding) piles and haemorrhoids
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure (if not suitably treated)
- Any kind of hernia
- Anything with acute symptoms
- Major Psychiatric disorders
- Severe backache
Anyone who has undergone major surgery should wait at least 3 months before doing Laughter Yoga, as with most other therapies. If in doubt please consult a medical professional for guidance.
Anyone already undergoing physician-prescribed therapy that experiences improvements through laughter should seek the advice of their doctor before reducing the dosage of their medication or stopping treatment.
Laughter Yoga is normally performed as a group activity under the direction of a trained and certified Laughter Yoga Leader. No special clothing or equipment is needed although comfortable clothes that allow free movement are recommended.
Apart from Laughter groups set up by Laughter Yoga Leaders, Laughter Yoga is also a good fun activity for almost any group of people, whatever age, who meet regularly.
It offers the same health benefits to all age groups and it can be practiced within:
- social clubs,
- in schools,
- fitness centres,
- within retirement homes and the like
Laughter Yoga can be adapted to suit the needs of just about any group of people.
It is also very beneficial within the Corporate Sector with stress-related illnesses being responsible for over 70% of doctor’s visits and medications prescribed today.
Laughter is nature’s counter to stress – they are physiological opposites.