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What is Laughter Yoga Anyway?

[Posted June 5th, 2012] by KimRuchAlegant

There’s a new exercise in town! Want an exercise that is good for your mind, body and spirit? Then give Laughter Yoga a try. Laughter yoga is a relatively new exercise (about 15 years old) which was created by Dr. Madan Kataria in India.

Laughter yoga is based on the principle that your body does not know the difference between “real” laughter- laughing at a joke-and “fake” laughter (which we can also call unconditional laughter). Anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. In laughter yoga, we do laughter exercises which simulate laughing, and it usually turns into real laughter. Sometimes we laugh so much it’s hard to stop.

The beautiful thing is that you receive the health benefits of laughter after laughing for about 10 minutes. Laughter yoga sessions are usually 45 minutes to an hour. In addition to laughter exercises, we do deep breathing with some gentle stretching, incorporate child-like playfulness, clapping, and a guided relaxation at the end.

Studies Have Proven the Benefits of Laughter

Dr. William Fry, a well-known research scientist from Stanford University, scientifically proved that 10 minutes of laughter is equal to 30 minutes on the rowing machine. He confirmed that 20 seconds of intense laughter can double the heart rate for three to five minutes. As an exercise, laughter has similar benefits to any other aerobic activity, like jogging, swimming and cycling.

Laughing stimulates blood flow and helps to oxygenate the body. People have commented that their cheeks and stomach hurt from laughing so much. These are muscles with quickly strengthen, so never fear, the soreness does not last long.

Laughing is good for you, because laughter reduces mental stress and strengthens the immune system. Laughing also increases the oxygenation of your body, is a natural pain killer, increases blood flow and decreases blood pressure.

Writer Norman Cousins wrote in his book “Anatomy of an Illness” that 10 minutes of laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep after his diagnosis with a potentially fatal disease. Dr. Lee Berk performed a study of heart attack patients where half of his patients watched funny videos for 30 minutes a day, while the others did not. The “humor” group had fewer arrhythmias, lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones, and required lower doses of medications one year later. The non-humor group had 2.5 times more recurrent heart attacks than the humor group.

You may have seen the move “Patch Adams” about a doctor who used humor to help his patients heal. Dr. Daniel Amen wrote in “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body” that laughter counteracts stress by lowering stress hormones, eases digestions, soothes stomach aches and is good for the immune system.

Laughing together also builds community. The unconditional laughter of laughter yoga creates strong bonds between people who laugh together. This is very beneficial in corporate or other work environments, at retreats, or in community living facilities like nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Dr. Kataria created laughter yoga in the hopes of connecting people with one another at the heart level without judgment. To him, that is the true meaning of yoga.

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