From self-conscious giggles to uninhibited belly laughs...we all know that they lighten our minds and give an instant mood boost. But today, Laughter Yoga is a growing trend in parts of the United States, India and other countries. Its proponents are re-learning something many of us already know instinctively: that laughter is indeed the best medicine.
Dr Madan Kataria was the first one to discover and make use of the fact that anyone can laugh for 15-20 minutes without depending upon a sense of humor or comedy. The human mind can not distinguish between fake and genuine laughter -- whether the laughter is fake or real, it causes happy chemistry in the mind.
Laughter Yoga combines simple laughter exercises (simulated laughter) and gentle yoga breathing, which turns into real laughter when practiced in a group. Laughter Therapy sessions are usually in groups, and last for 15-20 minutes. Nobody cracks jokes, nobody relies on their great sense of humor or comedy to laugh. But everyone goes back feeling lighter and happier.
Did You Know?
- Laughter is a valuable tool in Laughter Yoga, it is not just an emotion.
- There are more than 5000 laughter clubs world wide!
- Laughter makes it easier to cope with life and its challenges.
- Laughter builds self-confidence
- Laughter is an important social skill that keeps communications fun
- Laughter is good for your health!
What To Expect From a Laughter Yoga Session
Warm ups are essential to Laughter Yoga, pretty much as they are for all forms of yoga and exercise. Here are the first few stages of every Laughter Yoga session.
1. Everyone claps in rhythm while chanting "ho ho ha ha ha" 2. Everyone breathes deeply 3. The teacher helps people simulate specific life situations and replace words with laughter
The first part of a typical laughter session lasts about 20-30 minutes. Its pace and content is adapted to suit the needs and requirements of the group participating. Gentle physical movements are sometimes built in.
Advanced learners may also do some "laughter meditation". This is where the group members sit on the floor. They fake laughter until a deep and natural laughter starts flowing like a fountain. No words are spoken.
Benefits to Physical Health
- Laughter enriches the blood with ample supplies of oxygen. According to the science of yoga, life energy (prana) flows through the breath. 15-30 minutes of Laughter Therapy helps to increase the lung capacity, thus enhancing oxygen supply to the body.
- It beats stress effectively. And stress today is considered the number one factor in killer diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, frequent coughs and colds, peptic ulcers, insomnia, allergies, asthma, menstrual difficulties, tension headaches, stomach upsets and even cancer.
- Laughter boosts the Immune System, the master key for maintaining good health.
- It helps control high blood pressure and heart disease. While there are many factors for these like heredity, obesity, smoking and excessive intake of saturated fats, stress is one of the major factors. Laughter definitely helps to control blood pressure by reducing the release of stress-related hormones and bringing relaxation.
- It helps in increasing stamina through increased oxygen supply
- It alleviates pain and gives a sense of well being by releasing endorphins, the body’s painkiller hormones.
- It is an effective antidote for depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders: laughter boosts the production of serotonin, a natural anti-depressant.
- It gives an internal massage to the digestive tract and enhances blood supply to important internal organs like the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and adrenal glands.
- It ensures good sleep and reduces snoring because laughter is very good for the muscles of the soft palate and throat
- It brings a happy glow to your face and makes your eyes shine with a thin film of tears which are squeezed from the lachrymal sacs during the act of laughter.
Benefits to Mental Health
Laughter Yoga improves health, increases well-being and promotes peace in the world through personal transformation.
It helps exponents to distance themselves from their fears, sadness and other negative emotions. Laughter Yoga bases itself on the philosophy of “acting happiness”. We “simulate to stimulate”. In time fake laughter becomes genuine and flows out like a fountain.
The therapeutic value of Laughter has been thoroughly and scientifically researched in the past 40 years. Here are some studies on Laughter cures --
- New research in Japan has shown that laughter therapy is an efficient low-cost medical treatment that cuts health costs. Geneticist Kazuo Murakami considers that laughter is a stimulant, which can trigger energy inside a person's DNA potentially helping cure disease. "A laughing therapy has no side-effect, meaning it is an epoch-making treatment for clinical medicine," he said.
- According to a 2001 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, fostering a happy frame of mind may bring allergy symptom relief. In the study, the allergic responses of study participants were significantly lower after viewing a humorous videotape than they were after viewing a non-humorous tape. Researchers surmise that laughter reduces stress, tension, and anxiety, which may help strengthen the immune system. *A health centre at Fortaleza, north-eastern Brazil, is successfully treating patients suffering from depression, stress and diabetes with Laughter Therapy. Patients who attend the weekly sessions, are encouraged to all laugh out loud together. To help put patients in the mood, staff organised activities, such as paper fights and karaoke sessions.
- Research from the The University of Maryland Medical Centre in 2005 suggested that laughter helps the linings of the arteries stay healthy and thus reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. It relaxes arteries and boosts blood flow. The study concluded that 15 minutes of hearty laughter should be part of a healthy lifestyle.
How to Laugh Alone
- Just decide To laugh -- When you choose to be sad, nobody can stop you. If you choose to laugh, nobody can stop you either.
- Experience group laughter sessions as often as you can.
- Fake it! You could make funny faces in the mirror, try a deep belly laugh, pretend you're in theatre...faking laughter is not difficult at all!
- Seek Outside Stimuli (choose to spend time with funny people, play with toys, laugh with a stranger, play with kids in the park, get a puppy)
When To Stop Laughing
Laughing is a powerful form of exercise that provides more of a cardiovascular workout than many "regular" aerobic activities. A typical Laughter Yoga session lasts about 20 to 30 minutes. Anything beyond 30 minutes is in the red zone and may adversely affect a lot of people, especially seniors. Use your common sense: no strain, no new pains.
Laughter Therapy is an alternate therapy, and does not have enough research backing it as conventional medicine does. But laughter has no side effects, it only helps us get a more positive attitude to life. In that sense, laughter therapy is a win-win option -- even if it does not offer a sure shot, proven cure for any ailment, it at least brightens one's outlook! Laughter is an integral component of human happiness, which Laughter Therapy has just restored to us.
More on Laughter therapy
What can I do to help
- Laughter Cures
- About Laughter Yoga
- Dr Kataria's School of Laughter Yoga
- To Find a Laughter Club or Teacher