It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. Laughter yoga, started in 1995 by Dr.Madan Kataria in Mumbai, has taken over the world. Today, there are over 5,000 “laughter clubs” or laughter yoga groups around the world. He took the saying “laughter is the best medicine” and ran with it. While it does seem incredible, laughter yoga has many health benefits—both physiological and psychological.
Laughter yoga participants practice in 20-30 minute intervals. Often laughing for the sake of laughing produces genuine laughter. Research studies have indicated, however, that the body does not distinguish between “fake laughter” and “genuine laughter.” It derives the same benefits from both. Laughter helps expel “stale air,” or the 30% of air that normally remains in the lungs, and clears breathing passages. Laughter also relieves stress and boosts the immune system, promoting overall health. Laughter helps alleviate pain, and exercises the muscles of the throat and palette, promoting better sleep and less snoring.
Independent Yoga Form
Some yoga enthusiasts view laughter yoga as unrelated to other yoga disciplines. Not so, says the creator and founder of laughter yoga. Laughter yoga is based on postures for the face, rather than postures for the entire body. Laughter yoga clubs and groups are encouraged to offer free participation. They often practice outdoors, in nature. Laughter yoga enthusiasts believe that it works for everyone, because it is not affiliated with any religion, philosophy, political organization, and it is non-competitive. Traditional yogis, or yoga practitioners seek to find peace and a calm place within themselves. Laughter yoga is similar, but skips internal reflection in favor of the principle “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you.” Laughter yogis subscribe to the idea that if one acts happy, one will eventually become happy. It is a different perspective of the world.
Laughing With or Without Humor
When Kataria started his laughter club with just five people in 1995, participants started making each other laugh by telling jokes. Eventually they ran out of neutral or positive jokes and resorted to sexist, racist or politically motivated jokes. Immediately, club members began to be offended and have less fun. At that point, Kataria led the group in a different direction. He created exercises to promote laughter without the need for jokes—laughter as a form of exercise alone. Laughter clubs and yoga groups encourage imagination and play, and a sense of release from anxiety.
Senior yoga classes often incorporate laughter yoga successfully with other, more traditional yoga forms. Some seniors may enjoy yoga classes as much for social interaction as for the exercise. Laughter yoga promotes health and happiness amongst all participants. All it requires is a sense of fun and exploration.