Laughter Yoga is a deceptively simple, yet very powerful and potentially life-changing, form of exercise that anybody can do — anytime, anywhere. Its core premise is that your body can and knows how to laugh, regardless of what your mind has to say; Laughter Yoga is a body-mind approach to laughter, not something mind-body. The distinction is very important. Here you do not need to have a sense of humor, know jokes, or even be happy. Laughter Yoga invites you to fake it until it becomes real.
Laughter Yoga is non-political, non-religious, non-racial, non-threatening, and non-competitive. It comes with no strings attached. There are no jokes or comedy, and there is no judging. Because there is no mind, there is also no ego, and no room for conflict or power struggle. Laughter is a universal language that transcends all barriers: language, age, gender, race, and social background. It improves interpersonal relationships and enhances communication. It interrupts the power struggle and breaks down the instinctive barriers between people.
At a deeper level it proves that pain can be overcome and also that we can all live in peace together. It is now indisputable that laughter plays a role in healing, staying healthy, controlling stress reactions, and maintaining emotional balance. Laughter has been rediscovered as a powerful tool in the battle against many mental and physical diseases.
Laughter Yoga also teaches you emotional resilience: how to make happiness a choice and not a consequence, and how to respond positively even in the face of adversity.
Should you laugh every day? Only if you want to feel good.
“Laughter Yoga combines laughter with yogic breathing exercises. It is a perfect way to laugh and get exercise at the same time. It approaches laughter as a body exercise so it’s easy to laugh even if you’re depressed or in a bad mood. I’ve tried it, and it works.” Oprah Winfrey
Everything Old Is New Again
The Laughter Yoga method of simulated laughter exercises adds a new dimension to all the good work and important ideas that humor activists have been teaching.
But Laughter Yoga is different. For the first time in history there is an economical and highly practical application of these theories that is being used every day.
Laughter Yoga is the only form of exercise that allows you to laugh heartily, engaging your diaphragm, for an extended period of time — Laughter Yoga classes last 30 to 60 minutes on average — for no reason whatsoever. It is the purest form of laughter there is because it is unconditional. It puts you in touch with the very essence of who you are: loving, open, playful, and childlike. This is one of the many reasons that make Laughter Yoga fun and why it is becoming so popular worldwide: it encourages us to play well with others, without judgment or competition.
Laughter Yoga Echoes All Schools of Yoga: Get Out of Your Mind
Laughter Yoga eliminates the need for the kind of considerations that run in other yoga classes. Am I misinterpreting this? Am I being open-minded? Am I doing this correctly? Is my spine in effective alignment? Is this working? What is wrong with me that I do not like this? Do my arms looks fat?
There really isn’t much room for that in a Laughter Yoga class. It’s too simple and too playful. All you have to do is laugh. It frees up a lot of potential within you to relax and be more open to connect to yourself and to others.
Neuroscience Confirms: Our Bodies Respond to Social Connection
There is much we don’t yet know about the neurological underpinnings of laughter, including why, precisely, laughing feels so good. One recent study detected evidence that stimulating the nucleus accumbens, one of the brain’s pleasure centers, triggers laughter. Some anecdotal and clinical evidence suggests that laughing makes you healthier by suppressing stress hormones and elevating immune system antibodies.
If you think of laughter as being basically synonymous with the detection of humor, the laughing-makes-you-healthier premise seems bizarre. Why would natural selection make our immune system respond to jokes? Dr. Robert Provine helped solve the mystery. By studying over 1200 natural occurrences of laughter, he found that our bodies aren’t responding to punch lines, they’re responding to social connection. And even if we don’t yet understand the neurological basis of the pleasure that laughing brings us, it makes sense that we should seek out the connectedness of infectious laughter. We are social animals, after all. And if that laughter often involves some pretty childish behavior, so be it. “This is why we’re not like lizards,” Provine says. “Lizards don’t play; they’re not social the way we are. When you start to see play, you’re starting to see mammals. So when we get together and have a good time and laugh, we’re going back to our roots. It’s ironic in a way: Some of the things that give us the most pleasure are really the most ancient.”
Practiced Daily in Thousands of Free Laughter Clubs Worldwide
Laughter Yoga is practiced all over the world in a thriving network of thousands of social Laughter Clubs and many more for-fee Laughter Yoga classes on 5 continents (an estimated 1 million people laugh every day in Indian Laughter Clubs alone).
Laughter Yoga Clubs are free gatherings of people who get together just to laugh. They are led by volunteers and are fully independent, not-for-profit, non-political, non-religious, and non-competitive groups where all are welcome regardless of gender, age, physical abilities, and social or economic backgrounds.
Laughter Yoga Classes are offered to interested groups of people (e.g. with seniors in a retirement community or with the staff at a business) and are usually not open to the general public. They usually require a fee and are led by trained Laughter Yoga professionals who love to laugh and share their passion with others.
Worldwide Media Coverage
The media has been highly influential in the growth of Laughter Yoga and Laughter Clubs globally. Major television networks, radio stations, and newspapers worldwide regularly cover the Laughter Yoga movement.
Laughter Yoga is extremely media friendly because it provides great visuals, amazing audio, and does not go against any established interests or personal beliefs.
Ultimate Goal: World Peace
The ultimate goal of the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement is health, joy, and world peace through laughter.
The practice of Laughter Yoga causes the body to release into the bloodstream high concentrations of communication substances related to feelings of happiness, warmth, unconditional love, bonding, tolerance, forgiveness, generosity, and compassion. Let’s call this a joy cocktail. The presence of this joy cocktail of hormones and neuro-peptides precludes the production of other hormones and neuro-peptides that correspond with hatred, fear, violence, jealousy, aggression, and the emotions associated with war and oppression.
By practicing Laughter Yoga in groups, the amount of the joy cocktail is raised to high concentrations through the multiplier effect. People leaving Laughter Yoga sessions go forth and interact with many people who are in turn affected to varying degrees by this powerful emotional state of joy. They in turn ‘infect’ other people they come into contact with… and so on.
World peace first starts inside every one of us. We don’t laugh because we are happy. We are happy because we laugh.
Scientific Research on Laughter Yoga and Simulated Laughter:
- Complementary Medicine: laughter encourages and empowers people to actively participate in their health care
- Mental Health: forced laughter is a mood enhancer, boosts psychological wellbeing
- Workplace Efficiency: Laughter Yoga enhances employees morale, resilience, and personal efficacy beliefs
- Workplace Stress: Laughter Yoga is an antidote
Laughter and Yoga: It’s All about the Breath
Many wonder what the connection is between laughter and Yoga, and if there is one at all. There is one, and that connection is the breath (there are no contortions or fancy movements in Laughter Yoga and all can participate and benefit).
The word Yoga arises from the Sanskrit root “Yuj,” which means to get hold of, integrate, and harmonize. It means integrating all aspects of life, harmonizing our bodies with our minds, spirits, and society.
There are many paths of Yoga. The most commonly known in North America is Hatha Yoga, a yoga practice concerned with balancing the body energies through physical postures of asanas.
Laughter Yoga follows a very different approach.
Yoga teaches that the mind and body mirror one another, and that breathing is the link between the two. This is extremely important because when you deepen your breath, you calm your body (the heart rate quickly slows down following the exercise since there is less work to do; the blood is already charged with fresh oxygen). When you calm your body, you calm your mind (you cannot be physically relaxed and mentally stressed at the same time). When your body and mind are relaxed you start becoming more aware of the present.
The ability to fully live and experience the “now” is of utmost importance because it is the only moment where we can experience happiness. Being in the now frees us from the regrets of the past and the anxieties of the future and enables us to enjoy simply being.
The majority of types and forms of the laughter exercises we practice are directly connected in one way or another with the principles and maxims of Yoga – some are, in fact, yogic exercises taught through the ages as Hasya Yoga (the branch of Yoga dealing with laughter). These yogic exercises include:
Pranayama is an important yogic exercise that involves deep and rapid breathing. It has been liberally introduced between Laughter Yoga sessions as a pause and to increase lung capacity. This basic and important yogic exercise is further used as the underlying foundation of the hearty laughter pose in Laughter Yoga, where the arms are raised up to the sky and a cycle of rapid inhalation/exhalation ensues.
Kapalbhati is a famous yogic exercise that entails contraction of the throat and palate muscles and entails a jerky and rhythmic movement of the diaphragm to expel air in a series of bursts. This is precisely the foundation of the HO-HO HA-HA-HA exercise between each Laughter Yoga session, used as both a warm-up exercise and to charge the atmosphere with cheer and festivity.
Bhastrika and Swash Shuddhi are similar yogic exercises used to clean the respiratory passages in forceful jerks of breathing and the rhythmic contraction of lung and throat muscles – the very same muscles and actions used in Laughter Yoga during the HO-HO HA-HA-HA exercise and other playful laughter.
Talasana is the yogic stretching of arms and exercising the neck and shoulders while taking a deep breath. This is used in the Laughter Yoga cry-laugh and various other laughter exercises.
Simha mudra is the famous lion laughter of Laughter Yoga, which entails keeping the eyes wide open, fully extending the tongue, and roaring like a lion.