There are plenty of positive graphics floating around the Internet, generally consisting of tranquil nature scenes with inner-peace inspiring quotes pasted on top. Many of these images tout the advantages, both spiritually and physically, of remembering to be grateful and focus on happiness. And while these messages are lovely and make us feel warm inside, they don’t really put the positive movement into action unless the viewer decides to make it so.
Laughter yoga, however, provides a concrete way to bring the power of positivity to life with a very real and fun form of exercise. Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria is generally given credit for starting the first Laughter Club, after he discovered in studies that laughter offers humans physical benefits on nearly equal par with exercise.
Because fake laughter produces the same physiological effects as genuine laughter, there’s no need to start renting funny movies and watching comedians while you practice this version of yoga. Laughter yoga involves exactly what the name implies – laughing while you do yoga – and it doesn’t matter if it’s forced or not.
So what are the benefits of laughter yoga, and how does one begin practicing this playful activity?
The benefits of laughter yoga include:
* A cathartic reduction in stress and anxiety that can lead to faster healing, a stronger immune system, and lowered blood pressure.
* Less of the stress hormones that cause anxiety and weight gain, such as epinephrine and cortisol.
* Regulation of blood sugar and less risk for diabetes.
* A boost of oxygen throughout the body, leading to mental alertness and the release of happiness-inducing endorphins.
* Increased lung/respiratory health resulting from deep, strong breathing during laughter.
* Increased abdominal strength and toning from using stomach muscles to laugh while performing yoga.
* The strengthening of facial muscles, which can minimize wrinkles and help tone the under-chin and neck area.
The laughter yoga practice can be done at home if you choose to teach yourself, or with a group if you can find a local laughter yoga class or club. Below are the steps to help anyone learn laughter yoga:
1. Open Your Mind—
You are about to laugh for no apparent reason, and many find this makes them feel a bit silly, even if completely alone. This means the first step to practicing laughter yoga is to let go of all feelings of self-consciousness.
To do this, remember you’re doing a positive thing for your health. Plus, you might also find that once you start laughing, it will become real as the giggles take hold.
2. Applaud Yourself—
To start, clap your hands together in front of your heart and let out the biggest laugh you can muster, focusing on the stomach and heart areas.
If you’re having trouble faking laughter, some laughter yogis suggest making the actual sounds, “Ha, ha, ha, ha,” as you concentrate on the heart, and the sounds, “Ho, ho, ho, ho,” while engaging the abdominal area. This simulated mirth will often lead to actual laughter if you stick with it.
3. Take It Down to the Ground—
After mastering the chest and belly laugh, you can now send joy into the lower part of the body by stamping your feet and chanting, “Hee, hee, hee, hee,” until the laughter becomes genuine.
Adding a yoga move such as standing forward-fold pose or downward-facing dog while continuing to laugh can combine the benefits of exercise and happiness.
4. Bring It Up to the Sky—
The laughter wave is another popular move that combines the upper and lower parts of the body during laughter yoga.
To perform the laughter wave, bend at the waist in a bow, face hands down to the ground and lower them, and then raise them palms-up to the sky, laughing heartily.
5. Keep a Clear Head—
If you feel tension mounting inside of your mind at any point during the day, place the hands upon each side of the head, and laugh inside to yourself with a big smile on your face for an amazing release of pent-up anxiety.
This can be performed in a private office at work, or even a bathroom stall if you have no other options and really need to let go of stress.
If you’re performing this move at home or in a laughter yoga class, of course, be sure to laugh out loud for maximum health benefits.
It may sound like a slightly odd combination – mixing laughter with the usually silent, solemn practice of yoga – but the benefits of both activities combined have given laughter yoga large amounts of respect among fitness experts and spiritually-minded people.
With an estimated 6,000+ laughter yoga clubs and classes worldwide, laughter yoga has moved from an interestingly odd trend to a legitimate, accepted and highly effective type of exercise. Consider trying some of the laughter yoga tips above at home, or try a class in your area to reap the physiological benefits of this fun exercise… and find your happy place today.