What is Laughter Yoga?
Laughter Yoga, also known as Hasya Yoga, combines unconditional laughter with yogic deep breathing exercises.
Dr. Madan Kataria, western trained medical doctor and Founder of the Laughter Yoga movement says,
“If we can learn to change our breathing pattern from shallow to deep, we can easily alter our body arousal system. With deep breathing, our body will not experience stress response, even if we have disturbing thoughts.“
Benefits of Laughter Yoga
- Stimulates deep breathing;
- Reduces the levels of stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol;
- Lifts depression!
- Increases brain endorphins and serotonin that act as mood enhancers and natural pain-killers;
- Improves lung capacity & oxygen levels to the blood & circulation of both the cardiovascular & lymphatic system;
- Promotes better sleep;
- Internally massages the digestive tract promoting better digestion;
- Provides a safe aerobic workout. The heart rate increase in 1 minute of hearty laughter is equal to 10 minutes of rowing or jogging;
- Exercises facial and abdominal muscles;
- Boosts the immune system by increasing levels of anti-viral and anti-infection cells;
- Boosts self-confidence, creativity, improves communication skills and creates positive group energy;
- It’s fun!
What happens during typical Laughter Yoga class?
During a Laughter Yoga class you will breathe deeply, clap, chant, be playful like a child, stretch, practice laughter exercises, make eye contact with others in the group and sit or lay in silent meditation.
To learn more about what happens in my Laughter Yoga classes, read my interview in Laugh Magazine “When Giggles Make Good Medicine“. (click the image once to enlarge for easier viewing)
#1. Clap rhythmically & Chant, “Ho, Ho, Ha, Ha, Ha”
Laughter Yoga clapping is different from regular clapping. Palms are facing one another and the aim is to have full impact with the palm area, fingers hit opposite fingers. This warm up exercise stimulates acupressure points on the palms and improves blood circulation in the entire body. Clapping while chanting and moving about the room while maintaining eye contact with others helps build energy levels and creates a sense of playfulness and well-being.
#2. Breathe Deeply
Deep breathing brings about physical and mental relaxation. The most important part of any yoga practice is the breath. Yoga (in any form) cultivates deep breathing.
Deep breathing increases oxygen delivery to the body, specifically, to your cells, and aids in detoxification and stress relief.
Most of our lung capacity comes from abdominal breathing, but if you aren’t bringing in oxygen this way (as a result of shallow chest breathing), your body retains stale air full of carbon dioxide and potential toxins. Laughter increases oxygen intake and breathing in more fully oxygenates the blood, leaving the body bursting with energy. More oxygen is good for you!
Many of the Laughter Yoga exercises originated from traditional yoga poses (like Lion Laughter demonstrated below) but the possibilities of creating new variations of exercises is limited only by the imagination of the participants.
Laughter Yoga combines breathing (pranayama) with rapid diaphragmatic contractions involved when we laugh from the belly.
Some techniques involve play acting (driving laughter, cocktail laughter, mental floss laughter) and others are called value-based techniques. The VBT’s are exercises where we put ourselves in real live (often stressful situations) and replace the negative responses with positive responses. Some examples include argument laughter, stuck in traffic laughter, credit card bill laughter and a recent development, Brazilian Bikini Wax Laughter (learn how to do it here).
Scientific research shows that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter (or fake smiles and real smiles). One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits from faking it as from doing it for real.
In Laughter Yoga, the “motion” of fake laughter, creates the “emotion” of joy.
Anyone can laugh for no reason (yes, even you), without relying on humor, jokes or comedy.
#4. Silence & Meditation
At the end of the Laughter Yoga series of exercises we spend time slowing ourselves down. We take time to sit in stillness and silence to integrate the healing benefits of our deep breathing and laughter practice.
We may sit in easy pose (legs crossed) or lie on our backs in a relaxation pose.
How will you feel at the end of a Laughter Yoga class?
Most participants report feeling refreshed, relaxed and energized. Click here to read what people are saying after practicing Laughter Yoga with Christa.
Relative Contraindications/Medical Advisory:
Laughter Yoga is not a substitute for medical consultation for physical or mental illnesses.
Rule # 1 in Laughter Yoga is NO STRAIN, NO NEW PAIN.
Laughter Yoga is aerobic exercise and it is not suitable for people suffering from uncontrolled high blood pressure, people who have had surgery within the last 3 months, acute illness, internal bleeding, severe heart disease, epilepsy (or seizure disorders), any kind of hernia, severe backache or psychotic disorders.
To find a Laughter Yoga class or training near you, visit Dr. Kataria’s website here.
If you live in the Wilmington, Delaware area, please subscribe to my blog to stay up to date about my classes and events.
And remember, when life throws you lemons, Don’t Give Up, get your Giggle On!