There is nothing better than a big laugh, one that sits right in your belly, one that gives you a sweet pain. You both want it to stop and continue at the same time because the tingling in your body gives you bubbles of inner joy while your belly ache is asking you to stop laughing.
But laughter yoga – really? – would you ever have thought that laughing would be part of a yoga discipline? It is far removed from sun salutations. Nevertheless, it is – and it is definitely worthwhile giving it a chance.
Get ready for a good laugh!
In this article we will go through all you need to know about laughter yoga.
- What is Laughter Yoga?
- What are the benefits?
- Science and Laughter
- An example of a Laughter Yoga session
- 6 Laughter Yoga Exercises
Ready to laugh?
Let’s get started!
Laughing is Contagious
My first encounter with Laughter Yoga was about 25 years ago when a good friend of mine invited me to a laughter party. He asked me to try something that he had picked up in India, and he told me it was Laughter Yoga.
At first, It felt strange to stand laughing with a group of strangers, but after having surrendered to the practice, I lost sense of time and had a lot of fun. By the end of the day, I felt happy, alive, and invigorated.
The next thing I heard from my friend was an invitation to a Laughter Yoga session in the centre of the town hall square in Copenhagen where thousands of people joined.
That was the beginning of the movement in Denmark.
Considering that laughing is contagious, it is no surprise that Laughing Yoga has grown from being a small group in Mumbai, India to over 8,000 clubs worldwide.
What is Laughter Yoga?
Laughing yoga is a bunch of movement and breathing exercise that aim to cultivate joy, bring out your inner child, and help you let go of daily life stressors.
Either you can practice it by yourself by listening to a YouTube link or you can join a Laughter Yoga class in a yoga studio.
Have you ever been able to laugh on command?-I have not. Most people need a joke or to watch something funny to start laughing. Bur once you begin to laugh you never want it to end, and it is much easier to laugh when you laugh with other people.
The “fake it until you make it” attitude.
The body cannot distinguish between a burst of real natural laughter and forced laughter. Both types of laughter start a chain reaction of positive influences of body and soul.
And after a few attempts of fake laughter, most people let go and surrender into a burst of proper laughter with their personalized touch.
(Can you imagine being in a room filled with 50+ people laughing in their own style, a cacophony of voices and tones. It is then hard to hold back your smile).
The story of Laughter Yoga.
The international Laughter Yoga movement was founded in 1995 by the Indian doctor Madan Kataria, who after seeing groups of people standing on streets and corners of India, laughing without reason, started to study the science behind it and later created his first group.
Laughter yoga then became a popular movement.
Today there are more than 8000 registered Laughter Yoga clubs in 80 countries.
The first Sunday in May has been named “The International Laughter Day”. On that particular day, thousands of people gather worldwide to practice Laughter Yoga together.
The benefits of Laughter Yoga
Research is showing that laughter yoga is healthy for both body and soul.
The Science of Laughter
There are plenty of scientific studies out there about both physical and mental benefits of using humor and laughter.
Laughing releases endorphins and happy hormones such as dopamine and serotonin and suppresses stress hormones such as cortisol.
Laughing with other people seems to increase social connectedness and bonding, as well as strengthen our relationships. Laughing with other people is also linked to feelings of security and safety, allowing a person to feel more relaxed.
13 Amazing benefits of Laughter Yoga
1. Laughter Yoga is used to treat anxiety and depression.
2. Some say that doing Laughter Yoga for 15 minutes is equivalent to 2 hours of sleep.
3. Laughter Yoga is a perfect social lubricant as all conflicts and disagreements seem to vanish after a good laugh.
4. Laughter Yoga is like medicine as it activates a series of muscles that enhance blood circulation and strengthen lung capacity. It can generate a false cough that loosens mucus and improves oxygen uptake.
5. Some say that just 1 minute of Laughter Yoga corresponds to 10 minutes in a rowing machine.
6. Experiments with heart patients have shown that laughing is equated with strenuous physical activities such as running and tennis.
7. Research shows that laughter yoga improves digestion and can reduce IBS symptoms.
8. All that cry-laughing cleanses the tear ducts.
9. According to research, laughing increases the number of white blood cells that strengthens the immune system.
10. Laughing reduces negative thoughts, worries, and angst.
11. Laughter Yoga creates space for natural joy and spontaneity.
12. Builds a positive attitude in challenging times.
Here is what a laughter yoga class might look like:
Turn up in whatever mood you are in. It is not a prerequisite to come prepared with a big smile on your face.
The instructor will start the class by probably telling you about the story behind Laughter Yoga and the benefits, followed by some warm-up exercises such as different breathing styles (pranayamas) to warm up the laughter muscles and the body.
The first Laughter exercise is the “Ho, ho, ha, ha” – followed by clapping,
It is done with rhythmic clapping 1-2, 1-2-3. (Ho-Ho; Ha-Ha-Ha). This can go on for up to one minute.
Then follows exercises to give you a complete experience and to make everybody surrender to the laughing.
A 20-minute session is a perfect blend of simulated laughter, deep breathing, and stretching exercises.
One set of laughter lasts for 30 seconds to 45 seconds. After each set of laughter, or sometimes after two sets, two deep breaths are taken, in order to give the practitioner a break. This avoids tiredness and exertion.
You will probably end the session with various neck, shoulder, and arm stretching exercises together with deep breathing.
Warm-up laughing exercise:
The sound should come from the back of the throat, to feel the movement of abdominal muscles, while keeping the mouth half-open.
Chant Ho-Ho Ha-Ha, with a smile, and the smile should be maintained. The head and the body should swing forward and backwards as if one is enjoying the exercise.
6 Laughing Yoga execises
1. Greeting laughter
Walk around to different people with palms pressed together at the upper chest in the Namaste greeting or shake peoples’ hands and laugh, making sure to look into other people’s eyes.
2. Lion laughter
Stick your tongue fully out and keep your mouth open. Stretch your hands out like the paws of a lion and roar, then laugh from your belly.
You should feel a nice stretch in your facial muscles, your tongue, and your throat. It will also help you to loosen up and play around.
3. Humming laughter
Laugh with the mouth closed and hum. In this type of laughter, the lips are closed and the person tries to laugh while making a humming sound that resonates throughout the skull. Look into other people’s eyes and make funny gestures.
4. Silent laughter
Open your mouth wide and laugh without making a sound. Keep looking into other people’s eyes and make funny gestures. Silent laughter should be done with quick movements of the abdominal muscles as we do during spontaneous laughter.
5. Gradient laughter
Start by smiling and then slowly begin to laugh with a gentle chuckle. Increase the intensity of the laugh until you’ve achieved a hearty laugh. Then gradually bring the laugh down to a smile again.
6. Heart-to-heart laughter
Move close to a person and hold each other’s hands and laugh. If people feel comfortable, they can stroke or hug each other.
Here is a link to 6 easy Laughter Yoga Exercises 6 Quick Laughter Yoga Exercises That Access the Now
Are you ready to laugh?
To sum it all up, Laughter Yoga is a great way to let loose, have fun, and learn the joy of laughing and it is a fun way to laugh and take yourself less seriously.
What’s not to like?
As the old proverb says:
“Smile to the world and the world smiles back at you”.
So have fun and enjoy a good laugh!
If you’re wondering about Laughter Yoga near me (how to fund laughter yoga), check out this link to find a great Laughter Yoga club near you!
If you’re after more Laughter Yoga content, the Laughter Yoga founder Dr. Madan Kataria has his own YouTube channel, why not have a look at some of his videos!
Or how about some lighthearted yoga memes!