Laughter Yoga

Laughter Yoga

Laugh your way to a greater sense of overall wellbeing

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How can laughter yoga nourish you?

While yoga is a path to peace and happiness for many practitioners, one approach that is enjoying great popularity is known as laughter yoga, or Hasya yoga (the word ‘hasya’ means ‘laughter’ in Sanskrit)[1]. Laughter yoga’s origins can be traced back to 1995, when a family doctor from India, Dr Madan Lal Kataria[2], conceived the idea of “laughter as a form of exercise”[3]

Dr Kataria’s early experiments with laughter as a path towards relieving stress included ‘laughter clubs’, but he soon became disillusioned with this venture[4]. Shifting his focus to the way laughter tends to spread as people begin laughing in response to the laughter of others[5] around them, he gradually developed a collection of physical activities intended to encourage people to laugh without needing humour. 

The similarities Dr Kataria noticed between the physical act of laughter and yogic breathing exercises (pranayamas) inspired him to include various aspects of yoga into his techniques. 

In 1999, Dr Kataria published the book Laugh For No Reason, and travelled extensively[6], promoting laughter yoga and training instructors all over the world. His efforts brought laughter yoga international recognition, and it is now being enjoyed in more than 110 countries.

Benefits of laughter yoga

Even though Hasya yoga is probably the youngest popular variety being practised, considerable research has been done on the possible health benefits of laughter. The results of one study indicate that a laughter and exercise program may significantly increase bone density[7] in elderly people, while another has linked laughter with an increased ability to tolerate pain[8].

Research conducted by Deakin University suggested that just one session of laughter yoga could reduce stress levels of businesspeople by up to 10%[9], as evaluated by indicators such as self-esteem and general life satisfaction. One study suggests laughter yoga may improve heart rate variability[10], and laughter has been observed to measureably reduce stress-hormone levels[11]. Laughter yoga wellness programs have been reported to significantly improve the mindset of cancer survivors and people with disabilities[12].

Laughter yoga may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Alzheimer’s disease
Anxiety
Back pain
Balance, stability and coordination
Bullying
Cancer
Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
Concentration, focus and problem solving
Confidence and self-esteem
Dementia and alzheimer's
Depression
Energy and vitality
Flexibility, endurance and strength
Mental health
Muscle spasm, tightness and cramps
Osteoporosis and bone density
Panic attacks
Relaxation
Respiratory and breathing issues
Sadness
Stress and tension
Weight control and obesity
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What to expect from a laughter yoga session

Largely agreed to be one of the mildest and least challenging forms of yoga, laughter yoga can be practised by people of all ages[13], regardless of their fitness level. Laughter yoga for seniors[14] is promoted as a way of improving physical and psychological health, while laughter yoga for kids is a fun way to be active with your children and spend quality time together as a family.

A yoga laughter therapy session typically takes about 30 to 60 minutes, but can last up to two hours or more[15]. The class will often start with a warm-up that involves simple breathing exercises and stretches. These are followed by playful exercises such as clapping, chanting and eye contact, to help participants feel less self-conscious, and encourage laughter[16]

Even though it takes a bit of focus to start laughing, participants’ laughter soon becomes genuine[17] and spontaneous. The main part of the session usually includes deep breathing exercises as well as hearty shared laughter, winding up with laughing meditation and sometimes a grounding exercise[18] as well.

Despite its low-intensity nature, it’s still a good idea to consult your medical professional before commencing laughter yoga. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your laughter yoga instructor, who will be happy to address these and adjust the session to your individual requirements. 

References

  1. How Laughter Yoga Heals | yogajournal.com
  2. The Laughing Guru | The New Yorker
  3. Laughter Yoga: A prescription to laugh | The Hindu
  4. The makings of Laughter Yoga | Laughter Yoga Australia
  5. What Is Laughter Yoga? | doyouyoga.com
  6. Laughter becomes a serious business for Indian doctor | Reuters
  7. Effects of a laughter and exercise program on physiological and psychological health among community-dwelling elderly in Japan: randomized controlled trial | PubMed
  8. Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold | PubMed
  9. Business Research Study | Laughter Yoga Australia
  10. Effect of laughter yoga on mood and heart rate variability in patients awaiting organ transplantation: a pilot study | PubMed
  11. Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter | PubMed
  12. No bending, just laughter in this yoga session | news.abs-cbn.com
  13. Who is Laughter Yoga for? | Laughter Yoga Australia
  14. Benefits of Laughter Yoga in Aged Care Settings | Laughter Yoga Australia
  15. About Laughter Yoga Clubs | Laughter Yoga Australia
  16. What does a typical Laughter yoga session involve? | sydneylaughter.com.au
  17. Laugh. And be happy. The science behind laughter yoga. | CNN
  18. Laughter Yoga | laughandlivewell.com

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