Since discovering Moymoypalaboy (see October and November 2010 posts) I have been playing and replaying their videos almost every day for a dose of laughter. Not only do I laugh, but I am delighted, rejuvenated and encouraged. We know laughter has this effect on us, so why don’t we do it more? Maria Rainier tells us more about the effects of laughter and how one doctor has made it into a Yoga form. Here is her guest post for Healing Philosophy.
A child laughs 400 times a day; an adult laughs 15 times a day. What gives?
This is the entire premise of laughter yoga—restoring laughter to those who have forgotten or lost reason to laugh.
Dr. Kataria and Hasyayoga
Medical physician Dr. Madan Kataria began his research into laughter after reading the findings of Norman Cousins, an American journalist who purportedly cured his degenerative heart disease with massive doses of Vitamin C and by training himself to laugh. Inspired, Kataria began encouraging his family members and friends to laugh by telling jokes, but as the jokes ran out, Kataria resorted to psychosocial and playful techniques to arouse laughter. He then discovered hasyayoga (laughter yoga), which he made popular in 1995 from Mumbai across the entire globe. Today, 60 countries together boast over 6,000 Social Laughter Clubs.
What is Laughter Yoga?
Laughter yoga combines unconditional laughter (laughing for no reason: no jokes, no comedy, no innuendo, merely joy) with yogic breathing (pranayama). Laughter yoga is exercised in a group of people who, with eye contact and childlike playfulness, turn little giggles into laughter from the belly.
What Are Its Benefits?
Other than it being fun, the benefits of laughter yoga are many. Clinical research from University of Graz in Austria; Bangalore, India; and in the US indicate that laughing—even fake laughter, which the human body cannot differentiate from real laughter—lowers stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol in blood. Regular reminders to laugh also allow individuals to deal with stress more productively by putting stressful situations into perspective with the rest of one’s life: what’s a burned pancake in view of one’s overall health?
In fact, the benefits of laughter yoga have been recognized to the extent that many schools of Surat, Baroda, and Bangalore (India) have introduced it into their curriculum. Schedules include ten minutes of hasyayoga in the morning assembly and five minutes of hasyayoga at both the beginning and end of each day in classrooms. Students’ grades as well as theirs and teachers’ moods have improved; they work better together with more positive attitudes and improved communication, discipline, and attendance. American college students at Ithaca College are quickly catching on to the trend.
If children and young adults can stand to gain from laughter yoga, so can businesspeople. Humor is a common tool in the office to break tension and keep workers going through the day; laughter yoga is a reliable and effective method that allows even adults to laugh wholeheartedly for 15 to 20 minutes with short breaks of yogic breathing. India, Denmark, and many business environments in the U.S. show benefits of reduced stress and improved productivity after only three weeks of laughter sessions.
Seniors, medically ill patients, and patients with physical and mental challenges also benefit from laughter yoga. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease make it difficult to comprehend humor, but with hasyayoga, no humor is needed to laugh, exercise, and feel pure joy. Coping with pain and trauma becomes easier for cancer patients such as those who perform laughter yoga during chemotherapy sessions in the Swedish Cancer Hospital in Chicago. Children with mental and physical handicaps enjoy improved motor and expressive skills and health.
Laughter yoga has even been introduced to the prison system. British actor John Cleese visited Mumbai Prison in 2001 and found that prisons—concentrated hotbeds of negative emotions and thoughts—of all places could use laughter yoga. Reduced violence and improved moods and prisoner/staff relations have ensued in several prisons in India, Europe, and the U.S. with regular practice of laughter yoga.
Watch this clip from BBC’s Human Expressions, which explores the benefits of laughter yoga.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where recently she's been researching online music degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.