Guest Author - Tracy Webb
In 1995 Dr Madan Kataria created Laughter Yoga with the philosophy that we can ‘laugh for no reason’. Using laughter and pranayama techniques Laughter Yoga is gaining in popularity with businesses’ using it to motivate and develop their staff. Those who use it have seen increased productivity and a reduction in staff absences due to ill health.
Many people spend days without laughing and have become over serious in their endeavours that they have forgotten how good it feels to laugh. Laughter Yoga assists with depression, reducing blood pressure, stress and lethargy due to the overall tone up the body receives.
When we laugh, we change the physiology in our body and release feel good endorphins. We break patterns of angst and enjoy a softening of the facial muscles and a less severe exterior. Not to mention a reduction in wrinkles and healthier skin!
Laughter has an overall benefit to the whole body with many organs being positively affected. Laughing is like an aerobic workout due to the involvement of the heart muscles, facial muscles, the diaphragm and lungs. Everything is toned up and the effects, according to ‘Wikihow’, can be experienced for up to 45 minutes after laughing.
Yoga Laughter uses forced laughter; however, during a class the laughter soon becomes infectious and natural. The first time I experienced it the thought of forced laughter was inconceivable. For someone who spends most of the day either smiling or laughing I couldn’t understand the concept of forced laughter. It proved to be the funniest thing I had encountered hence the laughter was even heartier.
Laughter in yoga is broken into four stages, smiling, laughing with the mouth shut, silent laughing and laughing loudly. There are some slight variations to the practice, here is the one I was taught.
How to practice Laughter Yoga
- Sit comfortably in Sukhasan and accept that it is ok to laugh for no reason.
- Start smiling and feel happiness flood your body. Notice the effects smiling has on you.
- Begin to laugh with your mouth shut. Feel the movement in your chest and stomach.
- Start to laugh silently with your mouth open but producing no sound. Think ha ha ha as you do this.
- Bend forward placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Lift your torso up and throw your hands up in the air and start to laugh out loud. You can say ha ha ha several times until natural laughter kicks in.
- Bow down and throw back your hands in this way for several rounds of loud laughter. This is also known as the ‘Laughing Wave’.
It is important not to laugh at others but rather laugh with them to increase your own happiness and share it with everyone you meet.
In the beginning, you may feel awkward and possibly find it difficult to laugh for no reason. For me, the fact there was so many people sitting together trying to laugh made it even funnier!
There are Yoga Laughter clubs spread throughout the United States and the rest of the world. It is worth seeking one out for the experience, not to mention all the benefits you will receive.