do laughter yoga

Do Laughter Yoga – It’s as easy as Ha Ha Ha

When we think about laughing, usually the first thing that might come to mind is a comedy show, or little kids playing in a field.  Yoga, on the other hand (at least for me) brings to mind a picture of calm and peacefulness, meditation and slow breathing.  So laughter and yoga together?  Does this mean we will be in a downward dog, laughing through our legs?  Hmmm….. that is a funny thought!

What is Laughter Yoga?

Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing, resulting in a unique exercise routine, that once you try it, is so simple and fun, that you’ll want to partake in it as often as you can.  The physical exercises are used to stimulate laughter.  It is quite common to “fake it until you make it”, but usually after about 20 seconds or so, real laughter ensues.  The more exercises we do, the easier it becomes to laugh since it is quite contagious.  Whether the laughter is fake or real, the body receives the same benefits either way.  The goal is to bring us back to our childhood, when we laughed hundreds of times a day for absolutely no reason at all.  We didn’t need someone funny on a stage, telling jokes in order for us to laugh.  We were joyful, all of us.  Another goal is to get us out of our heads.  Being intellectual is often looked at as a positive, but unfortunately, it is our intellect that often blocks us from natural laughter as we grow older, and live a life with added stress.

If you think back to a time when you laughed so hard and couldn’t stop, I’m sure you will recall that it was difficult to catch your breath.  Almost as if you forgot to breathe while you were laughing, and then all of a sudden you’d have to take a big, deep breath, before you could continue with the outburst.  That expelling of all the air, followed by such a big inhale, is exactly the reason for the ‘Yoga’ portion of Laughter Yoga.  That type of breathing has a powerful effect on our physiology and can influence the body and mind.  And of course, it’s also great marketing to call it ‘Yoga’.

If someone were to ask you What is Laughter Yoga, you could offer them a short summary that it is a mind-body exercise using laughter, that cultivates child-like playfulness and joy, resulting in many benefits.

History of Laughter Yoga

In March 1995, Dr. Madan Kataria was writing an article for a health journal on the benefits of laughter on the mind and body.  He decided that he wanted to test out these benefits, and so he went to the park and was able to get a few people to join him and form a laughter club.  Within a few days they had over 50 people.  The group would gather and one person would tell a joke or a funny story but after two weeks the jokes became negative and hurtful.  The offended members didn’t want to return anymore, but Dr. Kataria pleased with them to give him just one day to see what he could come up with.

He went home and reviewed his research, and realized that since the body cannot differentiate between real or fake laughter, the group could act out laughter and receive the same results.  The very next day, after only a few minutes of acting out the laughter, it soon became real and contagious for the rest of the group.  Laughter clubs have spread all over the world, and in this time of a pandemic have provided a real sense of joy and community even if only over the internet.

Benefits of Laughter Yoga

It might be easier to write about the opposite, since there are so many benefits.  Let me get started.  First of all, it’s an aerobic workout.  Missed your gym session today? Then come and laugh with us!  The heart rate increase in one minute of hearty laughter is the same as ten minutes on an exercise machine.  So imagine the effect after a 30 minutes or so!  Living through this pandemic has made us all look at ways to improve our immune system.  Laughter Yoga quickly boosts our immune system with fast increases in levels of anti-viral and anti-infecton cells and also, as a little added bonus, cells that fight cancer.  So have some laughter with that Vitamin C and you’re good to go!

We often overlook our internal systems, but for many of us, when we are upset, the first place we feel it is in our digestive system, right?  Nausea, upset stomach ,etc.  Well laughter promotes circulation to the digestive and lymphatic systems, which helps to flush the body of waste, and allowing us to operate at our peak.  One of my favorites, is laughter is anti-aging.  Forget that expensive anti-wrinkle cream, filled with toxic ingredients.  Come laugh with us and reduce wrinles and sagging by toning the facial muscles!

As adults one of the biggest factors in us not laughing as much is the added stress in our lives.  And as many of us know, with added stress comes increased levels of cortisol which can actually lead to weight gain.  But some laughter decreases levels of cortisol significantly in addition to releasing endorphins in the body.  Endorphins not only make us feel good, but they boost optimism, along with self confidence and feelings of self-worth.  It’s a win win!  Out with the bad, and adding in some extra good.  Who can say no to that?!

The final benefits, for me were the most important, and what led me on this journey to become a Laughter Yoga Leader.  In a world filled with people having had all different types of inner struggles, which led to them building walls of protection, laughter has the ability to tear those walls down.  It allows us to connect with others on a deep and profound level.  They say that you will know someone better in one hour of laughter than in a years worth of conversation.  It improves social connection, which is the basis of happiness in many countries all around the world.  It promotes creativity and focus, which is a major benefit for businesses.  And it allows for the release of blocked emotions stored in the body that over time can cause physical impairments.

How can I ‘Do Laughter Yoga’?

One of the best ways, is if you have a group of people willing to try it out, contact me and we can set something up over zoom.  If you prefer to do something in person, you can search your area for someone that possibly hosts a class in a park.  I know a lot of us, laughter leaders, offer donation based classes outside.  Currently I am located in Queens, NY and I teach classes in Long Island, NY and over ZOOM.

Conclusion

The possibilities are endless with laughter.  Dr. Kataria’s main goal is to use Laughter Yoga to promote world peace, and I can align with that.  ‘The practice of Laughter Yoga causes the body to release into the bloodstream high concentrations of communication substances related to feelings of happiness, warmth, unconditional love, bonding, tolerance, forgiveness, generosity and compassion’ (Laughter Yoga International, 2007).  If we could get everyone practicing this, imagine the effects worldwide.

15 thoughts on “Do Laughter Yoga – It’s as easy as Ha Ha Ha”

  1. Fantastic article it only scratches the surface of how great of an experience this is. I have participated in Shanna’s classes and I can say this is truly the most fun and exciting part of the week! I would
    Highly recommend it to anyone

    Reply
  2. I’ve done laughter yoga now 4 times and it gets FUN-nier every time .

    I started off pretty shy, but it progressively got easier to laugh in front of others and has allowed me to become more comfortable not only in the class itself but outside . I’ve been able to laugh more about things that used to bother me like traffic .

    It’s the best when someone in the class has a funny laugh too

    10/10 recommend , you’ll laugh more throughout your day and meet a ton of new friends

    Reply
  3. Hi Shanna,

    What a wonderful read, thank you for that.

    A few years ago I may have turned my nose up at the thought of “Laughter Yoga”, but I recall watching a travel program, some time last year I believe.

    Unfortunately, I can’t remember who the presenter was, but let’s just say that it must have been someone that I wanted to watch at the time.

    They actually visited a Laughter Yoga club in India, but not in Mumbai, where I believe Dr. Kataria originates from, but at the opposite end of the country in Kolkata.

    At first, it all seemed a little weird to me, but it definitely peaked my interest, so I researched the subject in more detail.

    I actually completely agree with the premise behind Laughter Yoga, and I know for a fact that laughing, whether real or fake, has an uncanny way of lifting the mood.

    I’m yet to try it as a form of exercise, but I think you may have just inspired me.

    Thanks once again.

    Partha

    Reply
  4. I’ve been to a few of Shanna’s laughing yoga classes. At first I was skeptical, not knowing how much “laughter” can really develop when you are taking a class about it. Well now I am hooked. The class is very enjoyable and hysterical! I automatically start laughing sometimes even before we begin. The activities that Shanna created for us are very ingenious. When others start laughing and making funny sounds, that is the best! I laugh so much I cry! After each class you feel so energized and refreshed! Plus I’ve met a few awesome people in this class. I highly recommend this class to anyone who is looking to meet new people, find more happiness and energy and well just “laugh”. I cannot wait to laugh in the next class!!!

    Reply
  5. A lovely article on a lovely activity! I actually tried it a few years ago, on an incentive journey organised by my company. We were a group of around two hundred people and it took less than a minute for the whole group to engage in laughter, after one started it. Laugh really is contagious.
    Of it’s benefits for health, I have no doubts, as it releases dopamine, which is exactly the opposite of what happens in stress, which can produce quite negative effect on body, as we know.
    If done regularly, as a routine, even better. A great way to create a better background for anything we might have to cope with.

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  6. Oh gosh. This both piques my curiosity and gives me so much anxiety! I would love to try this, as I genuinely neither laugh nor cry cathartically enough. I will try it at home in the confines of my room and cats, and see if I can make myself laugh! Maybe it will help me relieve some of the crazy stress of being a nurse and going to graduate school. I’m nervous about this, but willing to try it!! 😀

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  7. Laughing Yoga is something that any person or business owner should try. It’s a great way to connect with people and get the creative juices flowing. Shanna is an amazing teacher and every class you end up refreshed and with so much energy.

    Reply
  8. I am totally sold by this, I am a massive fan of normal yoga anyway and I am a massive believer in even if you feel sad, force a smile on your face and it’s amazing how much better it makes you feel plus smiling at other people and they will smile back at you so I guess this is what you are saying with this and fake it til you make it and it’s amazing how great it will make you feel. laughter is so contagious. YOGA makes you feel great! LAUGHTER makes you feel great! what an excellent combination in my book it’s a winner. love this!

    Reply

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