The primary reason why Dr. Kataria named "Laughter Yoga" as such was because he incorporated Pranayama, the ancient science of yogic breathing, into the laughter exercises. Laughter Yoga is therefore a form of Pranayahahama
According to yogic philosophy, we are alive because the cosmic energy from the Universe flows into our body through the breath, which is the life energy force or "prana." The very essence of our life is breathing. Whenever we get stressed or experience negative emotions our breathing becomes irregular and shallow, thus affecting the flow of prana in our body. Laughter helps reverse that process.
Here are some of the traditional Pranayama exercises that Laughter Yoga utilizes:
- 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 exercises.
- 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.
More traditional yogic exercises used in Laughter Yoga include:
- Talasana is the yogic stretching of arms and exercising the neck and shoulders while taking a deep breath.
- 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.
We encourage you to explore http://www.divyayoga.com/yoga-a-pranayam-videos.html. Patanjali Yogpeeth (one of the largest Yoga institutes in India) offers hours of free videos of Yoga Asanas & Pranayama exercises on this website.
The Yoga roots
"Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow." – Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Yoga is the science of right living and, as such, is intended to be incorporated in daily life. It works on all aspects of the person: the physical, vital, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual.
The word yoga means "unity" or "oneness" and is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj which means "to join." It is a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind and emotions. It includes many mental and physical disciplines.
The most popular of these disciplines in the Western world is Hatha Yoga, an approach concerned with balancing the energies through body postures (asanas). Hatha Yoga is primarily a solitary practice with no group interactions.
Here is a list of the other most popular branches of Yoga:
- Bhakti Yoga is the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion (bhakti) to a personal form of God.
- Jnana Yoga is the "path of knowledge"
- Karma Yoga is the science of achieving perfection in action
- Raja Yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation techniques