Tag Archives: laugh

(how to) Use the Ha Ha mantra when life is being rough with you!

A mantra is a commonly repeated sound, word or phrase used in meditation to cut through discriminating thoughts so the mind can become clear. In the context of Laughter Yoga, the “ha ha” mantra is an exercise that invites people to voice out loud something that is frustrating or painful in their life, and punctuate each sentence with “ha ha ha.”

In this video you will hear Gita Fendelman, a retired tax attorney who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost a decade ago while still in her 40s, put it into practice. Gita has never taken medication. Instead she chose to laugh daily, meditate, do healing Qi Qong and completely review her emotional life and diet.

This exercise may appear insensitive or even disrespectful to some, but it most definitely isn’t. This is about the affirmation of power over, not submission to what ails you. It is a most powerful exercise because you cannot both laugh about something and hang on to feelings of depression and powerlessness about it at the same time. The ability to laugh about your aches and pains is a sign of maturity and brings great emotional freedom.

Are there contra-indications to laughter?

In general

Yes. Laughter is contraindicated for people suffering from advanced (bleeding) piles and hemorrhoids or any bleeding tendencies in any part of the body, any acute symptoms of cough, any kind of hernia, cold and fever, epilepsy, heart disease with angina pain, incontinence of urine, persistent cough with breathlessness, severe backache, uncontrolled high blood pressure, within three months of a major surgery, and way too many other conditions to list here. If in doubt first ask your doctor if it’s OK for you to laugh.

No. Laughter is about breathing, and breathing is not a contraindication to life. Research carried out in December 2013 in a Kidney Dialysis Hospital unit in Melbourne, Australia, showed that a 30-minute Laughter Yoga session every two days for 30 days had no adverse effect on patients with extreme health conditions.

It depends. Are you using force or being gentle with yourself and respectful of your own limitations?

In particular

Laughter is universally well tolerated, but caution is advised in patients with certain concerning health conditions.

A literary review of 67 years of research on laughter published in the British Medical Journal in December 2013 reviewed what modern science knows about its beneficial and harmful effects. They found one case of death by laughter. She was 50, schizophrenic, and was referred for polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (she had a history of heart problems) after Ziprasidone therapy (an antipsychotic drug known to increase mortality in people with dementia-related psychosis). She had intense, sustained laughter one day after hearing a joke, collapsed and could not be revived. For the record, this is why pathological laughter can be dangerous. People with these symptoms just can’t control themselves and fall into excess, or distress.

More valid concerns were raised in that particular review against hearty and “intense side-splitting laughter” that can adversely impact certain people with pre-existing health conditions. The conclusion however was unavoidable and predictable: “The benefit-harm balance of laughter is probably favorable.”

The incidence of heart attack while shoveling snow, for persons with impaired heart function, is alarmingly high,” says Dr. William Fry, professor emeritus at Stanford University, a man who has studied the health aspects of laughter for decades. “But unexpectedly and against logic, the incidence of heart attacks suffered while laughing is surprisingly low.”
May I suggest you always take the safe approach and avoid extremes of any kind. Intense and forced laughter is neither helpful nor necessary. Beyond a certain point the body stops producing happy hormones and shifts into distress. It is like everything else. You can’t eat too much food even if it is healthy.

Before I suggest a comprehensive list of contraindicated conditions to laughter for those of you who are interested (I can summarize them all in seven words), first consider this: Life is deadly and statistics are formal. Five out of five people do die, eventually.

More seriously, laughing does increase intra-abdominal pressure and I have no doubt that quite a few of the 12,000+ dis-eases known today genuinely don’t do well at all with it, but listing them all would take far too much time. Whatever you would say will always be either too much or not enough, and focusing on what could harm people would be counter-productive in the context of what we are trying to achieve in laughter programs.

Here is how to make laughter safe and foolproof:

  • Follow your heart, but take your brain with you. If you have any kind of concerning medical condition don’t ask for trouble. Always get the advice of your doctor first before starting this or any other exercise regime. If you chose to ignore this advice, you are doing so at your own risk;
  • Enjoy everything you do. Respect your own limitations, and take it very easy. A smile is as good as a laugh if that is all that is available to you today;
  • No new pain! Avoid extremes. Stop immediately if anything becomes painful or uncomfortable, even to the slightest degree. When in doubt always ask a medical professional before engaging in laughter or any other kind of exercise regime. If you suffer from anythingcomplicated, advanced, acute, severe, unstable or uncontrolled, then you should get written permission from your doctor before doing anything, including laughing.
  • If you laugh more, drink more waterLaughing dehydrates. It may not be much, but considering that many people are chronically dehydrated, sometimes even a little can be too much. If you experience some heaviness in the head or mild to moderate headaches after laughter, that could be a warning sign. Always listen to your body. Be gentle next time…and drink more water!

Related link: Will I need public liability insurance to teach Laughter Yoga or Laughter Wellness?

The link between laughter and yoga: Pranayahahama


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

A common objection: “why should we laugh? It doesn’t pay the bills”

 We live in a world where very few things can make people laugh, while hundreds can make them frown, howl and cry. Many people lose track of the therapeutic values of laughter when stress and adversity knock at their door.

“Why should we laugh?” they say. “It doesn’t pay the bills.”

Society teaches that problems are serious and need to be addressed seriously. Laughter, on the other hand, is often perceived as frivolous and only relevant in its proper time and place.

There is a different way to look at this.

Laughing in the face of adversity won’t pay your bills, but it will teach you equanimity. It is not about strength, but courage, because it’s about letting go. Only one who knows how to create a balance between the favorable and unfavorable situations can maintain mental balance and composure. Life is not always fun, but it certainly is much more fun with laughter than without.

Practices such as Laughter Yoga and the Laughter Wellness method help you feel at peace and good about yourself in the present moment, for no particular reason. They give you the ability to laugh at things that previously would have caused stress or anger, along with the ability to experience a new sense of forgiveness.

When you change, the world around you changes. When you feel good, you are more likely to address the challenges you have to face constructively and with a positive attitude.

You can laugh when you want to, because you want to, if you want to. You can train yourself to react positively in the face of adversity. Whatever happens to you, whether pleasant or unpleasant, doesn’t matter at all. Nerve impulses are just that ─ nerve impulses. They mean nothing.

Choosing to remain positive and be comfortable with your imperfections and the challenges in your life does not mean you have to be complacent about them. You should not. Laughing about them is a sign of maturity. It’s a political act, a declaration of freedom, a demonstration that we are not afraid, that we refuse to let fear, anger, guilt or resentment win and rule our lives.

Merv’s Blog, May 2012

Can Laughter Count as Exercise?…ABSOLUTELY

There was an article in the Huffington Post on the 5th of May that asked “Can Laughter Count as Exercise?”(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/05/laughter-exercise_n_1400616.html) The conclusion that they reach is “While a laugh attack sure feels good, there is little evidence that suggests laughing can effectively replace a workout” What a load of rubbish. What don’t these people know about laughter or more importantly what do we know that we should be telling them.

In the past…

In the past Laughter Yoga has been heavily promoted as a fun, happy, loving, and connecting exercise. All of these are considered as “soft” concepts that are easy to feel but hard to measure. Discussing Laughter Yoga in this way assisted the common perception that we were all more than a little weird and the concept as a passing fad.

In the present…

More recently we have positioned Laughter Yoga as a medical alternative or better still an additional therapy to whatever people are already undertaking to deal with certain medical conditions. The big topics in this field have been cancer, heart attacks and strokes, and depression. These have helped us to become a more serious option with much clinical and scientific evidence to support us. Even in the Huffington article it tells how “results showed a 30 to 40 percent increase in diameter of the heart’s blood vessels…and those changes to blood vessels are all part of an important process that helps the body regulate blood flow and reduce inflammation—clearly this is no laughing matter” I agree.

In the future…

Finally the debate gets around to comparing Laughter Yoga with sport. It states that “a person would need to be seriously in stitches (for hours on end) to see any real muscle toning or conditioning effects.” Ah so it is in fact exercise just not in the format that the author defines it. So how do most people define exercise? Most would certainly see it in the physical sense. I see it differently.

Laughter Yoga as exercise

I see exercise as the body changing due to exercise in the aerobic sense. People who attend a Laughter Club have proven that their heart rate doubles in the first ten minutes, their oxygen capacity triples, and blood circulation increases dramatically while blood pressure decreases. Now that’s what I call true health.

Health is not just about being “not sick”

Too often we rate ourselves as being healthy just because we are not sick. True health comes from conducting activities that result in the proactive promotion of health away from being just not sick. That’s what Laughter Yoga is. Oh and by the way the very successful female tennis player Serena Williams when she was in Australia recently said that she developed her abdominal muscles by laughing as “ab crunches” are way too hard. So with all of this considered when someone asks you “Can laughter count as exercise?” I hope you can confidently answer…ABSOLUTELY ! ! !

Read more about Merv Neal

Cathartic psychotherapy and laughter as a healing agent: it works

Here is a very interesting and well documented article by Enda Junkins, LMSW, LMFT. It’s more an essay than an article, yet very much worth the read if you are interested on how to use laughter therapeutically.

Laughter and therapy are not generally paired in the minds of clinicians nor in the minds of the general public.

Therapy is a serious business and is viewed and approached with a proper amount of ponderous gravity. After all, people enter therapy for serious reasons, often at critical times in their lives. How, then, can laughter be a vital part of the therapy process when the subject matter is so serious?

Laughter, a birthright of all human beings, is actually misunderstood and undervalued as a healing, cathartic process. Heavily identified with humor, laughter is generally deemed appropriate only for lighter, more frivolous concerns and things that are funny.

Certainly humor is one trigger for laughter but not the only one. If one entertains the idea that laughter is a physical process which releases emotional pain, then other, more serious triggers like stress, anxiety, and tension will make sense. According to psychologist William James, “We don’t laugh because we’re happy. We’re happy because we laugh.” If we put laughter into a pain framework, all kinds of laughter in all kinds of painful situations begin to make sense.

Cathartic psychotherapy emphasizes and utilizes laughter as one of the major cathartic processes healing emotional pain. It is specific to the release of light anger, light fear, and boredom. When people laugh, if uncomplicated by medications which may interfere with the physical catharsis, they are releasing painful feeling which is gone for all time. The exact amount of pain is immeasurable but the body will keep discharging pain cathartically until there is no longer a need. The only thwarting influences are the controls artfully imposed in childhood. Human beings are taught the value of control from an early age. The loss of control cathartically through laughter, crying, or anger makes us uncomfortable to say the least. What we don’t realize is that when we lose control of our feelings cathartically, we actually gain “control of our lives in flexible, intelligent, creative, and caring ways.” (Goodheart, 1994, p. 36)

Continue reading

Merv’s Blog, April 2011

Make A Wish Laugh for Kids Day

On the 25th March Laughter Yoga Australia in conjunction with the Make A Wish Foundation held Laugh for Kids day. This was held at venues around Australia. The one that I was involved with was GRRREAT and attracted lots of positive media. A sample of this can be found at the following link. http://media.theage.com.au/how-laughter-can-be-the-best-medicine-2252104.html?from=newsbox It’s interesting nowadays with technology that even the Print Media is going Video on their websites. For this reason it’s really important that you have your 1 to 2 minute summary about Laughter Yoga ready. How it started, why it’s so good for us, how it works, where it is at present, and just as importantly where it’s going. From this the media will take what it wants and portray us in a very positive way. Thanks to all of those who participated. The Make A Wish Foundation saw it as a great success and will want to do it again next year for sure.

World Laughter Day

Our next major event will be World Laughter Day. It is being held on Sunday the 1st May. Once again this is a GRRREAT opportunity for us to get together and promote our Vision of World Peace through Laughter. With the current unrest throughout the world at present we have a great opportunity to get our message out there with this event. All of the details for each state are on the LYOZ website http://www.laughteryoga-australia.org/.

Another Laughter Club

I am delighted to announce the start of another Laughter Club. Jen Smith (a long time Laughter Yoga friend) has started a club in Maclean NSW. Well done Jen. I hope this inspires others to follow your lead.

Laughter Yoga Business Training

People often ask me how I get paid $1500 or more for a Laughter Yoga presentation when they only get a few hundred dollars if they’re lucky. Having owned and operated my own businesses for more than 30 years, and now as a professional speaker, I find it easy. For this reason I have created a one day Laughter Yoga Business Training Program which enables you to learn some of these ideas. I will be running it on the Monday after the Conference. Why not come along and join me. If you’d like some more details on the content send me an email at mervneal@laughteryoga.org.

2011 Conference Presenters

Enquiries have started to come in to present at the Conference also. If you have a story to tell about your journey and experience with laughter Yoga the Conference is a great platform to do this. Just send me your details and a brief outline of what you would like to present and we’ll put you on the Agenda.

2011 Booking and Registration Form

We now have a Booking and Registration Form on the LYOZ website. This form has the details of all of the events being offered and prices. As there is limited on site accommodation I recommend you get in early to avoid disappointment.


Read more about Merv Neal

Teaser humorous videos: try this, then try Laughter Yoga!

The following videos hopefully will at least make you smile. They may even (hopefully) get a few chuckles out of you. I post these type of videos here (many more are coming!) because they have either made me laugh or inspired me. If you enjoy laughing, the humor path is great, and it requires constant feeding (the same thing won’t make you laugh every day). This is why I like Laughter Yoga so much better. To me humor is a snack, and Laughter Yoga is the main dish. They’re both food, and one has much more substance than the other. Click here for exercises you can try right now.