If you are more familiar with the yoga, as a form of therapeutic exercise, then this kind is not very much different from it. As suggested by its name, it is a form of therapy, which is induced by laughing. It claims that if you engage in this activity, you would get overall improvement physically and mentally.
This started out in a research study done in the 1950’s by L. Ron Hubbard, which introduced the notion that laughing helps to alleviate physical and psychological stress. After some time, a journalist named Norman Cousins, who was then suffering from a degenerative disease, tried and tested the power of laughter as a therapeutic tool to heal him from his diseases. It was a surprise because truly, he was cured and his health improved. Since this aroused the interest of many scientists and enthusiasts, it was further looked at more closely.
In 1995, an India-based physician named Dr. Madan Kataria published an article discussing about the discovery of laughter therapy and how this would affect a person’s health. Because people became particularly interested with this, a laughter club was born. Although more and more people joined his sessions, it was a failure at first because the method by which it was approached was wrong. Later on, Dr. Kataria learned about a branch of yoga known as Hasya Yoga (or laughter yoga) and applied this to his therapy sessions. He was helped by his wife who is a yoga instructor and together they built a movement towards self-improvement through laughter yoga.
In 1999, a psychologist in Ohio named Steve Wilson asked Dr. Kataria to teach the art of laughter yoga in North America. Since then, Wilson started out his own organization with the same principle but with a different method of engaging in the laughter exercise.
Recently in 2004, Sebastian Gentry from Los Angeles trained officially under Dr. Kataria and is now leading professional trainings himself in the United States to make way for more certified instructors who would make laughing yoga more widespread and known all over the world. So far, there are more than 6000 clubs which engage in laughing yoga in 63 countries.
So what exactly is laughing yoga?
In traditional yoga, you are taught of breathing exercises and proper breathing techniques to release tension and find inner peace and calmness. Instructors also teach specific body movements and contortions, which are supposed to harmonize your body and soul.
In laughing yoga, you do not need to learn about such things. There are no complicated lessons that you need to master. You do not even have to wear a specific outfit or have certain tools and paraphernalia. You are not forced into a specific spiritual or religious group or political affiliation. It also does not choose a specific race and everybody is very much welcome. You are also not required to have a background on it or on any other forms of yoga, so you could just join a laughter yoga session if you want to learn more about it.
Basically, laughing yoga is a form of therapy, which makes use of self-induced laughter. You have to laugh without having anything to laugh about, which means that your abdominal muscles must work with its rapid contractions without an external stimulus triggering the laughter.
The principle behind this is that you should force to make a spontaneous laughter and later on, this fake laughter would further translate into something genuine. Another principle is that when you laugh for no certain reason, you find that there are lots of things to laugh about. The mere act of laughing is in itself therapeutic and you would soon realize that you don’t need to have an external force that would drive you to be happy. Just be happy and everything else will follow as the physical movements are connected with the psychological functions. It affects the body chemistry and so even if this specific laughter might seem mechanical at first, it later translates into something real.
One important thing in engaging in laughing yoga sessions is that you get to have social bonding with the members of the club and as we say, the more the merrier. The exercise would be more enjoyable and beneficial if there are lots of members to share the laughter with. However, be mindful of not offending anyone by laughing at them. The rule states that you have to laugh with people, and not at them.
Finally, you must learn to laugh despite the sorrows and worries in your life. Even if there are lots of things and reasons to cry and be sad about, you must be able to overcome the emotion and just laugh about the matter.
Now that you have learned about the basic principles of laughting yoga, what follows is a discussion of the benefits and advantages of engaging in this activity.
Since laughter is a psychological activity, it connects to specific parts of the brain and affects other systems in our body such as the nervous system. Because of this, our body produces reactions to a very warm and full laughter.
First of all, psychologically speaking, when we laugh, our body produces endorphin, which acts as a stimulant and pain-killer. It puts us in a good and light mood and any kind of pain, may it be physical or emotional, could be decreased.
Laughing also increases our levels of dopamine, which is a feel-good hormone, translating into a positive outlook and an overall feeling of elation.
Depressive individuals who engage in laughing yoga report that their feelings of depression are alleviated when they join in the therapy sessions. This is again because of the psychological effect that laughter brings.
Those who have problems forget about their worries and being active in laughing yoga enables people to have a good perspective, which helps them cope well with their problems. They find that they are less bothered by life challenges as they were before they started out in this endeavor.
People who laugh often also find that they become more agreeable, less irritable, less afraid, physically stronger, and calmer. This makes them more social beings as they were before.
Generally, laughing also makes people more self-confident in the sense that it makes us less anxious or fearful about a certain social situation. It also minimizes, or even erases, any negative emotions that we have.
We become less serious about everything around us, not that seriousness is a bad thing. However, when we are too occupied by everything and it worries us a lot, it makes everything a burden. It blurs our point of view and rational decision making. We become strongly affected by other things and people to the point that we become vulnerable and sensitive. If we are just laughing about these things, we would not have to feel bad.
When it comes to the physical effects, there are lots of them that laughting yoga could boast about.
When we laugh our heart out, we also feel that we are very energetic and on a high. This is because our blood supply becomes full of oxygen, which is then transported into all the organs in our body. This would in turn make the organs fully function.
Laughter negates the effects of stress in our body. When distressed, we experience more vulnerability to illnesses because our immune and lymphatic systems shut down. We also experience digestive problems such as constipation or loose bowel movement. However, some of those who have already been into laughing yoga discovered that their bodily functions were put back to normal, and have even improved.
Some say that when a person has sickness, engaging in laughing yoga would make healing a lot faster, and even cure some minor illnesses. There is some evidence of positive effects of laughter yoga on people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, many kinds of cancers, psychological disorders, and more.
Finally, and in general, laughter yoga enables people to experience the here and now and allows one to live life to the fullest. It makes one joyful and energetic, physically and mentally. The good thing about this is that it does not only take care of the physical health, it also fosters good relationship among people.
If you are interested in laughter yoga and would want to try this out, you could find a local laughter club near your neighborhood. Although it might seem weird at first, you would easily be able to adapt and adjust as you go through the sessions. You would find that laughter is really contagious and that it has lots of benefits that you couldn’t say no to.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine. For one, it is free and you don’t have to learn complicated stuff or have high educational or professional background. All people from various age groups, genders, and socioeconomic background would be able to experience the wonders of laughter as a therapeutic tool.