What is Laughter Yoga and Laughter Therapy?
The fitness and well-being world have long known the benefits of traditional Yoga exercises to help create a healthy mind and body and you’ll be hard to find a corner of the world where Yoga is not regularly practiced. Laughter Yoga can be seen to be a branch of Yoga that began to get attention in the 1960’s, where its teachings were greatly simplified to make it more accessible to everybody and where it began to be used for laughter therapy.
It quickly grew in the mid 1990s as a grassroots social movement of independent laughter yoga clubs, promoting the ideal of a non-political, non-religious, non-racial, non-threatening, and non-competitive voluntary (simulated) approach to laughter.
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Why Laughter Yoga?
At the core of Laughter Yoga is the premise that everybody can and knows how to laugh, regardless of what your mind has to say. Laughter Yoga follows a body-mind approach to laughter which means participants do not need to have a finely tuned sense of humour, know jokes or even be happy. Laughter Yoga invites you to ‘laugh for no reason’, faking it until laughter becomes real, unforced and flowing. Laughter therapy is an easy way to strengthen all immune functions, bring more oxygen to the body and brain, foster positive feelings and improve interpersonal skills.
Laughter yoga uses planned, simulated laughter as a form of physical exercise. During a session, a specialist practitioner guides the group through a variety of playful activities designed to encourage intentional laughter. This involves everything from clapping, chatting and chanting, to acting out visualisations. As you can imagine, it’s easy for these self-initiated giggling fits to turn into genuine, contagious guffawing as the session goes on.
Laughter yoga is built around the philosophy that combining laughter with deep yoga breathing brings more oxygen to the body and brain. This leads to biological and physiological changes that offer wellness benefits including improving mood and helping you with tension.
So why is it called ‘yoga’? The yogic aspect comes from the deep breathing and gentle stretches that are interspersed between the laughter exercises. The purpose of the yogic breathing is to deepen your laughter and increase oxygen intake, to enhance the therapeutic effects of your giggles. 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.
While there are many definitions for laughter therapy since the term generalises to include laughter related programs in the lay community, it refers to a more substantive form of laughter in therapy in the mental health community. Laughter releases three major feelings—anxiety, anger, and boredom.
When triggered appropriately with a trained laughter therapist, it enables a person to resolve issues fairly rapidly and effectively. Laughter therapy utilises the beneficial fact that it is impossible to be unhappy when your body and mind are focussed on the physical act of laughing. So in this way laughter therapy gives the mind a rest from negative feelings, allowing the participant to reflect and refocus on issues in their lives that need most attention.
Laughter Yoga International
Laughter Yoga should not be seen as a form of comedy. Instead laughter yoga should be seen as an exercise program for health and well-being. Laughter Yoga combines laughter exercises with traditional yoga breathing techniques (Pranayama). Laughter Yoga is practised in social laughter clubs in more than 110 countries around the world. As well as being used in Senior centres, age care facilities, schools and colleges, companies and corporations, Laughter Yoga is practised in factories and offices as well as with police forces and prisons. Its reach to help the physically and mentally challenged is without limits.
Laughter Yoga is both preventive and therapeutic. It’s like an aerobic exercise and demanding cardio workout. It’s a breathing exercise for those suffering from bronchitis and asthma. Laughter Yoga releases endorphins which are our body’s natural pain killer which can help those suffering from arthritis, spondylitis, chronic migraine headaches, chronic pains, fibromyalgia, autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases.
It reverses the negative effects of stress and strengthens your immune system. If you laugh every day, you will not fall sick easily. If you have chronic health conditions like heart disease, Hypertension, Diabetes, Depression, Anxiety, and panic attacks, you will heal much faster when you use Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga increases oxygen to your body and brain, and makes you feel healthy and energetic. It is a great exercise for team building, peak performance, creativity and emotional intelligence.
Laughter Yoga is used successfully by Alternative Therapists and Healers, Recreation Activity facilitators, Yoga fitness trainers & sports coach, Occupational Therapists, Health care professionals, Psychologists and Psychotherapist, Nurses, Social Workers, Counsellors, Health Care Workers, Professional Speakers, HR and management training professionals, School Teachers, Psychologists & psychiatrists, Entertainment professionals, Actors & Singers, Clowns and Comedians, Senior care workers, Marriage and family therapists, Life coaches and alternative therapists, Sales managers, Tourism professionals & tour guides, anyone who wants to add laughter and joy to their lives.
I was sat on the fence about Laughter Yoga at the start, I did not want to do it, but i’m really GLAD that I DID. It was Really Fun.
It was so nice to see all of the team’s gell together, getting all of the departments to connect with each other from a good old Belly Laugh.