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Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?

by Michelle Oakes(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 197 - August 2012

Laughter Yoga – Established 1995 by Dr Madan Kataria

History of Laughter Yogaalthough people did ask

Laughter yoga was invented by Dr Madan Kataria. As he was writing his article Laughter the best medicine for a health magazine he decided to try out the techniques inspired by Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of Illness.

laughter image

In a local park on 13 March, 1995 he managed to convince four people in forming a laughter club. This worked for a while; within a few short days the members of the group increased to fifty members of the public all wanting to witness that laughter really is the best medicine. For the first two weeks the group would stand in a circle and tell jokes or a funny story, but this soon fell flat and he needed to come up with something different. Using his acting and yoga techniques, including role-play and childlike playfulness, he was able to combine them together with laughter and successfully formed a laughter yoga group.

His research found that the body doesn’t know the difference between fake and genuine laughter as they both produce the same effect. It was found that people who started acting laughter soon turned into real laughter. This spread to the rest of the group lasting for nearly ten minutes.

As a yoga practitioner, Dr Kataria and his wife Madur Kataria found that there were many similarities between laughter and yoga. Exercises during his class include deep breathing (pranayama). He believes that the deep breathing in between the laughter makes the impact greater. His philosophy of laughter spread across India quickly and in 1999 Dr. Kataria made his first foreign tour to the United States. Today laughter yoga is a worldwide phenomenon with more than 5000 clubs in 55 countries including India, USA, Canada, Australia, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and many more.

What are the Health Benefits of Laughter Yoga?

As mentioned in the history of the group laughter, yoga uses a combination of laughter exercises and breathing techniques used in yoga. These increase the amount of oxygen throughout the body whilst being playful. This results in feeling more healthy and energized.

Other health benefits include the release of endorphins which encourages positive thinking, reduces high blood pressure and relaxes the whole body reducing stress and tension. It can also help with depression and anxiety by your body producing serotonin which is a natural antidepressant.

However laughter yoga may not be suitable for everybody, as there is risk factor for the following groups but are not limited to these, because of the strain it can have on the abdominal area. These groups are as follows: any kind of hernia, any persistent cough, epilepsy, heart disease, high blood pressure, incontinence of urine and severe backache.

There also appears to be a healing effect with laughter, but each individual is different depending on their physical, mental and emotional problems. For example, members with severe pain, migraines, headaches and asthma have found they have less attacks which can even disappear completely. It has been tried on a variety of age groups from children to the elderly and even people with forms of dementia.

Laughter is Contagious

Everybody has the ability to laugh for no reason. Some people may think you’re insane. However research shows that fake laughter can turn in to real laughter and help you feel a whole new you within a short space of time. We hear of the saying most of our lives that “laughter is the best medicine”. Through personal experience, I feel this is 100% accurate. For example, if you look at somebody in the eye or a person who is laughing you can’t help but laugh back.

I have experienced this myself. Having the feeling of wanting to laugh for no reason is an embarrassment in itself, but it does create the feel good factor and it makes other people the same way. 

What can I Expect to Happen During a Laughter Yoga Session?

The duration of the class will last approximately 30 minutes; each round of laughter can last between 30-40 seconds. This is always followed by clapping and chanting HO HO HA HA HA. The warm up exercise may also include gibberish childlike talking; this will get you in the mood for a good laughter session.

The instructor will ask you to deeply breathe through the nose with prolonged exhalation and then chant VERY GOOD VERY GOOD YAY - this will be repeated 3 to 5 times.

Greeting laughter involves joining both hands together and greeting 4 to 5 of the other members in Indian style known as Namaste or shake hands western style.

For a hearty laughter raise both arms high with your head tilted backwards slightly and feel the laughter flow this can be repeated 3 to 5 times.

Other laughter exercises include the following.

  • Bored laughter: fake it until you make it;
  • Boss left today: cheering is allowed;
  • Cheesecake laughter: throw imaginary cheesecakes at one another;
  • Chicken laughter: fold arms into wings and squawk your laughter;
  • Constipation laughter: sit on an imaginary toilet and let go with laughter;
  • Donkey laugh: EE HAW EE HAW;
  • Electric shock: shake hands and imagine getting an electric shock from the other person’s hands;
  • Greek restaurant laughter: raise imaginary plates and smash them whilst laughing;
  • Pigeon poop laughter: wipe imaginary pigeon poop off your head and clothes and many more.

After the laughter yoga session has finished, it is important that the conscious mind is disengaged. Laughter meditation may be used at classes which involve the group facing each other and making eye contact; no funny faces talking or sounds must be made, enabling the conscious mind to disengage. 

Further Information

If you feel like you would like to have a go for yourself at laughter yoga or find out anymore information and find out about classes in your area following websites are available.

www.laughteryoga.org

www.laughternetwork.co.uk 

www.laughtertherapy.co.uk

Acknowledgements

Special thank you to Dr Madan Kataria founder of laughter yoga.

Comments:

  1. Garret Wojciechowski said..

    Feeling rundown? Try laughing more. The fact cannot be denied and laughter is truly the best medicine. I always like to visit laughter clubs and Gotham Comedy club is one of my favorites. They know how to shed all your stress within minutes.
    http://www.gothamcomedyclub.com/


  2. Vision Shine said..

    Thank you for nice article.

    Truly Said "The most wasted of all days is one without laughter."

    We also shared similar thoughts in this article:
    http://visionshine.com/laughter-is-the-best-medicine/


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About Michelle Oakes

Michelle Oakes Access to nursing and midwifery diploma level 3  from Greater Manchester is a Healthcare support worker. She has been working within the NHS for 17 months now although she is new to the nursing sector. She is very interested in alternative medicine and natural remedies and may be contacted via happynuthouse@yahoo.com

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