BY: NADIA ZAIDI
Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh? Most of us will do anything to rouse laughter in ourselves or others. It’s probably one of the greatest human pleasures – and now it’s being used as a form of yoga.
Laughter yoga is a form of exercise that promotes laughter as a form of physical exercise. This form of yoga emerged from India in the mid-1990s, and developed as a grassroots social movement. It promoted the idea of simulated laughter without political, religious, racial, or competitive instigations. In this way, it was a form of unifying people under the pretence of laughter stimulation.
The premise of laughter yoga is that our bodies know how to laugh and are capable of laughing. It follows a body-mind approach to laughter, so participants do not necessarily have to possess a sense of humour or be happy to participate.
In essence, it is about inducing fake laughing until it becomes real. Laughing provides the body and brain with more oxygen. Consequently, this boosts better intrapersonal skills and arouses positive feelings.
The connection between yoga and laughter is breathing. It promotes laughter exercises in between laughter sessions to relax the body and mind.
In 1995, a family physician named Dr. Madan Kataria from Mumbai wrote an article called “Laughter – the Best Medicine.” He was impressed by the research of Norman Cousins, an American journalist who was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 1964 and given six months to live. Instead, he died 26 years later in 1990.
Cousins managed to heal himself completely with the use of laughter as therapy. Kataria decided to test the potential benefits of laughter. At first, he decided to tell jokes to ignite laughter, but when those were unsuccessful, he turned to the alternative of simply laughing. His wife was a Hatha Yoga instructor and suggested that he include breathing exercises within the laughter sessions. The rest, as they say, is history.
- You get a good laugh.
- You release tension in the body.
- Enhances ability to communicate.
- Increased oxygen and bloodflow.
- Improved blood vessel function.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Greater focus.
- Energy boost.
- Sharpens the mind.
- Added clarity.
How does it work?
Classes generally start with some socializing, as well as lessons about laughter. Shortly after, stretching and breathing exercises follow. Then it’s time to laugh! It’s important that the act of laughing comes from the diaphragm. Ever heard of a full belly laugh? Those are the most satisfying (and beneficial) forms of laughter.
- Clapping and chanting
- Laughter and yogic breathing
- Childlike playfulness (i.e: yoga instructors will lift their arms in the air, triggering childhood memories and uplifting their moods)
- Laughter yoga exercises
In a laughter yoga class you can achieve laughter for 15 to 20 minutes straight!
If ever you’ve doubted the power of a good laugh, this may change your mind. It’s about surrendering your mind to your body and vice-versa.
Yoga is all about the harmonization of the mental and physical selves. Laughter yoga allows you to experience spiritual awakening through the stimulation of laughter.