Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason Written By: Rachel D.A.
Laughter Yoga was really my first experience with Yoga. Wait…What? Laughter Yoga? “What the heck is that?” you might ask. That would be a very valid question.
Laughter Yoga is a series of exercises that promote unconditional laughter.
Yup, it’s silly, very silly, and it IS meant to be. There is really very little Asana involved, however the yoga part comes from the deep breathing involved to keep the oxygen flowing through the body while you are having so much fun. To me, it is another form of Pranayama (a basic aspect of the yoga practice). So, your next question might be “WHY?”
Why would you want to spend time laughing at nothing at all?
There are actually so many reasons to laugh this way. They say that Laughter is the Best Medicine and research is finding that that is very true. More and more studies support the positive effect that laughter has on the body, mind and spirit. In the 1960’s a well known author named Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a severe immune-deficiency disease. This disease left him in extreme pain and unable to function.
At the time there was very little the medical field could do for him and no hope for recovery. He found that when people visited him and made him laugh through funny stories, movies and jokes, he felt better for awhile. He created a rule for all his visitors that they must make him laugh if they wanted to spend time with him. Eventually he did make a full recovery that he credited, in large part, to laughter.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the benefits:
- Helps control blood pressure and heart disease
- Boosts the Immune System
- Alleviates pain by releasing endorphins and serotonin as well as other “feel good” hormones
- Suppresses the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. In fact they have found that laughter can reduce cortisol in your system by 24% as opposed to medication (4%) or meditation (4 – 5%).
- Makes it easier to cope with challenge and conflict
- Defuses fear, anger and boredom
- Helps build teamwork
- And possibly the most helpful of all is that 10 minutes of laughter will yield about 2 hours of being pain free
Another advantage is that it makes you vulnerable.
Many might argue that vulnerability is not an advantage and are afraid to be vulnerable, yet, according to Brene Brown, vulnerability is the key to living completely in the present moment – that wonderful place where creativity, joy and hope thrive.
When I talk to people about laughter and it’s benefits, many people react with “Oh, I love to laugh! I laugh all the time.” I always say “that’s great! Keep it up”. But most don’t realize that when you laugh at something funny, like a joke or a funny story, you only laugh for about 20 seconds.
The truth is that it takes about 10 minutes or more of laughter to bring you to the place where you can reap the benefits listed above. That’s why Unconditional Laughter (Laughter Yoga) was developed. It doesn’t hinge on something funny, you just keep laughing at nothing at all. Don’t worry, a good Yoga Laughter Leader will help.
One of the most wonderful things about this practice is that you don’t even have to laugh for “real”. Your body will get just as many benefits from fake laughter as it will from real laughter.
Keep an eye out for more on the benefits of laughter and how to incorporate more of it into your life. And a Laughter Yoga class.