I’ve been practicing Laughter Yoga for over a decade and one of the questions I get the most after I tell people I’m a Laughter Yoga Teacher is “I laugh all the time, why should I do Laughter Yoga?”
There are three compelling reasons to practice Laughter Yoga. You can remember them because each of the reasons starts with the letter “D.” That is, the three important reasons to practice Laughter Yoga are:
- Duration: The Healthiest Laughter is Prolonged Laughter
- Depth: The Healthiest Laughter is Deep, Diaphragmatic Laughter
- Dependability: The Healthiest Laughter is Dependable Laughter
Before we dive in let’s make sure we are all on the same page about “What is Laughter Yoga?”. That’s the question I get asked the most.
Laughter Yoga is a unique health concept where anyone can laugh heartily without relying on jokes, humor, or comedy. The concept is based on scientific evidence that both genuine real and self-simulated laughter both cause similar physiological and psychological responses. In a Laughter Yoga session we initiate laughter as exercise, but through eye-contact and childlike playfulness, self-simulated laughter becomes real and contagious. Laughter Yoga combines laughter exercises with deep breathing.
The practice was started by Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995. Dr. Kataria had read about that the health benefits of laughter could be received even if the laughter was just generated by making laughing sounds. When he read this he thought, “Why not start a Laughter Club?” And thus, the Laughter Yoga movement was born. It all started with just five people laughing in park and has now spread so that there are thousands of laughter clubs in over 100 countries worldwide. Now that we are all clear on what Laughter Yoga is, let’s talk about why you would want to engage in the practice.
The Healthiest Laughter is Prolonged Laughter
The first “D” is Duration. To reap the scientifically validated health benefits of laughter, a person must laugh continuously for at least 10 to 15 minutes. This is difficult to do in “real life.” Natural laughter may only come for just a few seconds here and there and is not usually enough to bring about physiological and biochemical changes in the body. In Laughter Yoga sessions participants simulate laughter as a form of exercise; therefore, the laughter can be prolonged.
In Laughter Yoga sessions we seek to laugh continuously for at least 10-15 minutes, if not longer. We are able to do laugh longer because we intersperse deep breathing exercises in between the laughter exercises. A breathing exercise is typically interspersed into the session after every couple of exercises or whenever the group looks like they need a break.
The Healthiest Laughter is Deep, Diaphragmatic Laughter
The Second “D” is Depth. The healthiest laughter is loud and comes from deep within the diaphragm. If you’ve ever laughed really loud in a public space, you may have noticed that you may have gotten some disapproving glances from bystanders. It’s not always socially acceptable to laugh loudly. That’s where Laughter Yoga comes in. Laughter Yoga sessions provide a safe environment where a people can laugh heartily without negative social implications.
The Healthiest Laughter is Dependable Laughter
The third “D” stands for Dependability. Because the basis of Laughter Exercise is unconditional and self-generated laughter, it is dependable. Natural laughter is dependent on circumstances and may happen naturally or not. By practicing Laughter Yoga, a person is not leaving laughter to chance, but doing it out of commitment. This ensures that a person receives the health benefits of laughter, regardless of personal life circumstances.
How do I get started with Laughter Yoga?
Ready to give Laughter Yoga a try? Attend a free Laughter Club! Right now with the COVID pandemic many Laughter Yoga Clubs are meeting online using Zoom or Skype. Usually these Laughter Clubs are free.
I host a free Laughter Club that meets twice weekly on Zoom. We meet Tuesdays at 7:30pm EST and Fridays at 11:30am EST. You can convert the time to your time zone using this free tool World Time Buddy. All are welcome. Find out more and register for the Laughter Club [link].
You may be wondering what happens at a Laughter Club. The short answer is that a lot of fun happens! Participants come together as a group (either in person or online) and begin by warming up the body and voice with gentle stretches and laughter sounds. Then the Laughter Yoga Leader leads the group in various laughter exercises to help participants be playful and laugh. As participants make eye contact with each other while laughing, the laughter becomes genuine and contagious laughter.
The session usually ends with a Laughter Meditation. The Laughter Meditation is like the cherry on top. It’s the time that participants drop the laughter exercises and just allow any remaining laughter to flow like a fountain. It’s normal to take breaks from the laughter and enjoy deep breathing throughout the Laughter Meditation.
Give it a try! Join my free Laughter Club.
Are there any contraindications for Laughter Yoga?
Laughter Yoga is like any other aerobic exercise and may not be suitable for everyone, as it involves some physical strain and a rise in intra-abdominal pressure. Some people may have pre- existing medical conditions should take reasonable precaution before engaging laughter exercises.
It is contraindicated for people experiencing any kind of hernia, heart disease with angina pain, persistent cough with breathlessness, uncontrolled high blood pressure, incontinence, epilepsy, advanced (bleeding) piles and hemorrhoids, severe backache, any acute symptoms of cough, cold and fever.
People with heart disease and high blood pressure but who are stable on medication and can take a brisk walk for 30 minutes without any symptoms can do Laughter Yoga with advice from their medical doctor.
People who have undergone major surgery should wait at least three months before doing Laughter Yoga. If in doubt first consult a medical professional for guidance. People who have undergone bypass surgery can also do Laughter Yoga after their stress test is normal.
Pregnancy is also a relative contraindication. Women are in advanced stage of pregnancy or with a previous history of miscarriages should refrain from doing Laughter Yoga.
IMPORTANT: Before any Laughter Yoga session it is important for Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders and Teachers to make the following announcement: “Laughter Yoga is like any other aerobic exercise. Should you experience any discomfort, please discontinue and get medical advice.”