In more than 5,000 clubs spread across 53 countries, enthusiastic yogis gather together and laugh their hearts out while performing various asanas. There is nothing intrinsically hilarious about the yoga poses, so what is it that is making these people laugh out loud?
Mumbai-based family physician Madan Kataria, the author of Laugh For No Reason, explains, “When you start laughing, your chemistry changes, your physiology changes, your chances to experience happiness are much greater. Laughter Yoga is nothing more than prepping the body and mind for happiness.”
At a workshop conducted by Dr. Kataria, he describes two types of laughter – one that originates from the body and another from the mind. Contrasting adult’s laughing habits with those of little children, he explains that adults generally laugh from the mind after “judging and evaluating” if the joke is funny enough. On the other hand, children laugh from the body, without giving it much forethought. Keeping this in mind, Laughter yoga encourages people to “cultivate their childlike playfulness” through guided sessions, aimed at cultivating the habit of spontaneous laughter.
What Does a Laughter Yoga Session Include?
Like any other exercise routine, a laughter yoga class begins with warm-up exercises. Dr. Kataria recommends starting a class by having the group clap in a rhythm while loudly chanting “Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha.”
“Say “ho ho” twice as you push your hands away from your chest and say “ha ha” as you push your hands toward the ground. Slowly sway your body from left to right and bend your knees slightly as you say “ho ho” and “ha ha” faster,” he advises. The deep breaths from this exercise fill our lungs with fresh air and increases blood flow.
Ideally, this should be done while standing upright facing another person, but if you are alone, you can use a mirror.
Another effective exercise is the humming laughter. This includes laughing with a humming sound, i.e. with our mouths closed.
One of the quirkiest exercises is silent laughter. In this exercise, you open your mouth and make laughing gestures, but you do it silently, without making a laughing noise. This is particularly effective if you are in a public space where you don’t want to disturb others around you.It is more effective than other exercises because not trying to laugh induces even more laughter. Teachers and practitioners encourage maintaining eye-contact while performing these exercises for added effectiveness.
The Benefits of Laughter Yoga
Studies show fake laughter can give you nearly the same benefits as real laughter. The body cannot distinguish between the two.
“As you keep laughing, you slowly calm down and lose your inhibitions and stress levels reduce,” Dr. Kataria adds.
While outlining what makes Laughter Yoga so effective, The Laughter Yoga University explains that it “deals with physical, mental and emotional stress simultaneously.”
Laughter yoga is proven to strengthen immunity. Thousands of studies conducted over decades have repeatedly proven the power of laughter to improve the function of the immune system. “Laughter Yoga flushes the lungs and fully oxygenates the blood and major organs leaving one bursting with energy and vitality and free from disease,” a report from The Laughter Yoga University states.
Additionally, laughter yoga lowers blood sugar levels and keeps diabetes at bay: “Japanese scientist Murakami’s experiment to ascertain the effect of laughter on the blood sugar levels has affirmed that laughter has a lowering impact on blood sugar,” the organization adds.
Scientists, Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunologist, of Loma Linda University, and Stanley Tan, MD, Ph.D. an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist at Oak Crest Health Research Institute, analyzed 20 people with diagnosed diabetes who were at high risk for heart disease due to high cholesterol and hypertension. They found that laughing reduced inflammation, and increased good cholesterol levels among people with diabetes.
Laughter yoga soothes tension in the body too, boosting blood circulation and helps in active muscle relaxation – both of which help in releasing pent up tension in the body.
It improves mood and helps relieve depressive symptoms: Depression is often accompanied by feelings of despair, insomnia, loss of appetite, low energy, and sometimes chronic pain. Practicing Laughter Yoga on a regular basis helps you alleviate most of these symptoms as it is one of the quickest and most efficient ways of increasing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, providing a moderately-intense cardio workout, and relieving pain.
In his sessions, Dr. Kataria compares the activation of abdominal muscles during the exercises involving forced laughter to yoga exercises which help in toning the digestive system. Noting how strong abdominal muscles develop a healthier digestive system, explains that practicing laughter yoga increases both the pulse rate and blood pressure while stimulating and fine-tuning the circulatory system.
One of the most widely taught and highly held concepts of Prana or life force is known to enter our bodies through breathing, so having a clear respiratory passage and efficiently functioning lungs are vital to the well-being of the holy trinity: mind, body and spirit.
Find a Yoga Laughter Studio
If you are new to this practice and would love to join a club, check out these resources:
Laughter is contagious – share it with your friends and make the world a happier, healthier place today!