People use laughter yoga for relaxation, improved health and happiness.
Created in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician, laughter yoga combines posture, pranayama (yogic breathing) and sessions of unconditional laughter. Their goal was to spread good health, joy and world peace through laughter.
What is Laughter Yoga?
This type of yoga is practiced in a group setting and doesn’t involve memorizing jokes or comedy routines. It doesn’t even require a yoga mat!
Laughter yoga relies on the fact that laughter is contagious and that our bodies can’t tell the difference between real and fake laughter.
During such yoga class, laughter is stimulated by having people go through certain motions and facial expressions.
For example, the ‘lion laughter’ pose involves holding your hands like claws, distending your tongue and laughing. Try it for a second and you’ll immediately feel your stomach tighten (and if you get a chance to see yourself in a mirror, your fake laughter will almost certainly turn into real laughter.) Can you imagine doing this pose with 20 people while looking at them? It would be impossible NOT to laugh out loud!
Another activity could be to greet and shake hands (or do a Japanese head bow) with everyone in the group using only laughter as a way to introduce yourself.
My words aren’t the best way to describe it… If you have 4 minutes, watch this short video and you’ll understand what laughter yoga is all about!
Other laughter yoga activities involve a bit more physical movement, like the “electric shock laughter,” where you touch someone else’s index finger with your index finger, jump back then laugh. Does the encounter with E.T. (the movie) come to mind?
The Health Benefits of Laughter
You’re probably familiar with the movie Patch Adams, in which Robin Williams plays the role of Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams, the doctor who implemented laughter therapy at the Gesundheit Institute in Virginia, USA. Following in his footsteps, more and more doctors now include humor and laughter to make medicine appear more friendly but also to allow patients’ physical and psychological conditions to improve because of the health benefits associated with laughter.
For example, in 2003, an American study involving healthy women looked at the effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity. They concluded that laughter may indeed reduce stress and be an effective cognitive-behavioral intervention mechanism.
Laughter can also increase blood vessel diameter, therefore sending more blood to the extremities, to your brain and to every cell in your body. This brings more oxygen to our cells and can serve to stabilize several body functions and increase tissue healing.
Physically speaking, practicing laughter yoga for relaxation offers a good lung and abdominal workout.
Of course, laughter is known to boost our mood and keep negative emotions like depression and anxiety at bay. It reduces cortisol levels and can also help reduce or prevent insomnia, ulcers and migraines.
Laughter Yoga for Relaxation
Henri Rubenstein, a French neurologist, reported that a mere 60 seconds of laughter could result in 45 minutes of therapeutic relaxation. Doesn’t it seem like a good way to spend a minute or two?
Other studies involving funny movies indicate that humor and laughter can lower our blood pressure and increase the level of endorphins in our blood, thereby making us feel good and more relaxed.
Laughter yoga has been scientifically proven to foster a positive and hopeful attitude and lower epinephrine and cortisol (stress hormones) in the blood.