Written by Julie Taylor
An important addition to health – a fashion – has swept across North America at a furious pace over the last few decades. Even traditional doctors agree that yoga, in all its forms, are great for body and mind.
But they require tying yourself in knots and holding impossible positions… Don’t they?
Not this one! Yet the heath benefits are just as seriously good as if you did. This form of yoga is called Laughter Yoga. Amazingly successful and effective – and good, old-fashioned fun.
Yoga was born in India, a very, very long time ago and just recently, laughter yoga has joined the ranks. And however light-hearted, the health benefits are just as potent.
In laughter yoga, exercise is not the focus: Laughter is. Very popular in yoga’s hometown, Delhi, there are more than 20 laughter yoga studios set up there by one doctor alone. Laughter yoga is based on the principle that one of the best ‘stress antidotes’ is the body’s natural ability to laugh.
Laughter has long been recognized as healthful for the body, particularly the circulatory system. In addition, the chemical effects of laughing and positive energy keep your mood elevated and help shield you from illness (in the ‘same-but-reverse’ way that stress can trigger illness). Combine these benefits with yoga and you have an incredibly powerful yoga.
Laughter yoga doesn’t require the flexible moves seen in most yoga classes but instead is about simple movements, enhanced with special chants and laughter.
There are chants, such as “Very good, very good, ho-ho, ha-ha-ha.” And there are different types of laughter, like these:
- Bow and Arrow: Drawing an imaginary bow while giggling hysterically
- Roller Coaster: Moving your body up and down above the waist while laughing
- Balloon: Blowing up an imaginary balloon, then bursting it and giggling like a child
- Metro: Laughing like the sound of a train
These are just a sample of some of the many chants.
Laughter yoga traces back to 1995, when an Indian physician prescribed controlled breathing exercises mixed with forced laughter. Laughter works out the abdominal muscles, tones the digestive tract, boosts the lungs, gets the blood flowing, and empowers the immune system. The benefits turned out to be nothing less than astounding.
Fake laughter might not fool your mind,but fool your heart it does.
As you know if you follow my work, the body can’t tell the difference between what happens in the physical world – the fake laughter – or what is generated by the mind, ‘genuine’ laughter. This is the opposite of the dream about falling and the measurable effects on the body, but equally true. The benefit to the body with laughter yoga is exactly the same as a good body-shaking, tears running down the face, laugh.
A natural bonus is that after forced laughing for for a while, the laughing often becomes real and life becomes a little lighter. The other bonus is that while you are becoming strangely aware of yourself, and what you’re feeling, you can also check in with what you really need at that point?You can use those moments to connect with who you truly are and what you really want… You can monitor closely any changes forced laughter might make in your outlook?
Laughter Yoga joins the many other shades of the 5,000- year-old alternative health exercise, inviting you to check in with your soul, to become more aware of ‘you’ and connecting how you really are inside with how you ‘show’ on the outside.
That’s the serious side… But my Mom, who taught me to always try and see ‘the other side’ and be open to all possibilities reminded me of a possible downside when she read my article… “It’s possible to die laughing” she said. “You know… When you laugh so much it hurts… The tears are pouring down your face and you no longer know if they’re tears of laughter or pain?” As someone who loves a good laugh – and an octagenarian – I think my Mom and her friend look fabulous and are the perfect poster-people for the benefits of laughter.
(I wonder if anyone has heard of someone actually dying of laughter? If you have, I’d love to hear about it.)
To find out more, use Google to search for “laughter yoga” in your home town. Try it? There are probably few alternative therapies more enjoyable than this one.