When was the last time you had a really good, loud and deep belly laugh? How did it make you feel? Did your body feel engaged? Did you feel happy and joyful?
“Laughter Yoga” is a unique modality that doesn’t take anything but a willingness to laugh in any given moment to engage in. And once you let go, the laughter begets more laughter. You don’t even need jokes, humor or comedy to get you going into a real contagious laughter. And you’re spirit and mood will be lifted up while amassing many physiological benefits, achieved by simply having fun.
“When you act happy, you create the chemistry of happiness.” ~ Sebastien Gendry, American School of Laughter Yoga
In 1995 a medical doctor in India, Dr. Madan Kataria , and his wife, Madhuri Kataria, a yoga instructor, set out to bring healing through laughter to their community. It started with 5 people in a park in Mumbai and a lot of jokes, but very quickly Dr. Kataria learned that humor was not the way to make this a lasting practice for a variety of reasons: what is funny to some, might not be to others and what you yourself find humorous one day might not be the next. Willingness and openness were the keys to being able to laugh at any given moment. After 20 years, there are thousands of laughter yoga clubs in over 72 countries. Laughter yoga has even found its way into corporations, which have instated a pleasurable beginning to each day with laughing sessions. Can you imagine how much more relaxed, connected and alive the employees must feel each day? Productivity and better morale has been a positive outcome of this de-stressing practice.
For today, I choose to connect with my playful inner child and allow myself to laugh out loud through my belly full heartedly with intention and joy.
This summer I had the pleasure of learning more about Laughter Yoga. As I was researching this practice for a client who was going through grief, I immediately realized how beneficial it would be for all of my clients and how perfectly it fit right into my Thoughtful Living program. During my certification program to be a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, I have learned many amazing things about this fun way of healing and why joining a Laughter Yoga Club is a great choice.
- Willingness– All you have to be is open and willing to laugh. Again, you don’t need any type of stimulation like humorous jokes or comedy to laugh, although laughing at those things are definitely a plus. Through laughing exercises, using eye contact and child-like playfulness, an authentic and contagious laughter begins.
- Yogic breathing– Laughter Yoga incorporates both laughter exercises and yogic breathing. When we breathe deeply through our diaphragm or belly, we bring more oxygen to our bodies and brains and this makes us feel energetic and healthy.
- Faking it is just fine– Just like imagery and visualization, our minds can’t differentiate between what is real or not, so when you fake a laugh by making the motions and sounds using your whole body, it soon transitions into a real laughter and you will still reap the physiological and emotional benefits.
- Health benefits galore– There are many health benefits along with bringing more oxygen to the body. Increase blood circulation, muscle relaxation, release of positive endorphins in the body, decrease of stress hormone cortisol, and boosted immune system are a few others. Your overall mood can be uplifted. And, as you connect with others in a group, you let go of any pent-up stress as well. Research studies have shown how committing to laughter has made a significant decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol levels, perceived stress and increased levels of positive emotions, confidence, motivation and creativity. In addition, there have been many research studies on the benefits of physically smiling as well. And the best part is that you’ll bring joy and happiness into your life!
- Safe and supportive environment– Research has shown that we need 10 – 15 continuous minutes of deep, belly laughter to achieve the maximum benefits. By being in a Laughter Yoga group or club, you can feel free to explore your laughter without judgement or criticism. The idea is that everyone there will have the same goal and intention; to help themselves be healthier through laughter. So no matter how you may look or sound, you can trust that others may look or sound just as silly or more so than you.
- Eliminating chance laughter– By joining a Laughter Yoga group or club, you make the commitment and decision to laugh. Otherwise, you leave laughter to chance. And, how often does something really, really funny come along to make you laugh? Not very often and definitely not often enough. So, just like going to the gym, make a choice to exercise your laughter muscles. You can assure yourself that for that time period, you will laugh and feel better for doing so. And by exercising these laughter muscles, you might even find that laughter will increase in your daily life, whether it surfaces as a smile, a chuckle, or a full blown belly laugh.
Laughing and breathing exercises, physical movement, and inspirational guided meditations make up a fun and therapeutic laughter yoga session for anyone willing to give it a try, whether you have never experienced it before or whether you are a seasoned laugher. The rhythmic beat of 1-2, 1-2-3, Ho-Ho, Ha-Ha-Ha, clapping, breathing and laughing will soon get you going.
I would like to send a special thank you to Shelley Bell from Heart and Soul Space who trained and supported me through my Laughter Yoga certification process. Her knowledge and experience in Laughter Yoga will help me encourage laughter through my work and I am grateful for her patience and support. When I laugh, I feel I have definitely used my core muscles, stretched and worked all other body parts while belly breathing, opened my heart to peace and joy and connected to my inner calm and playful inner child. What better work out is there?
For more information about the Dr. Kataria’s amazing work with laughter, go to http://www.laughteryoga.org/english. Local and global workshops and conferences are available to connect with other laughers around the world. Ho-Ho, Ha-Ha-Ha!
Almost 30 years ago, Jo came out to study Psychology at UCLA and fell in love with the excitement of all that Westwood and Los Angeles had to offer: its arts, spiritual communities, shops, restaurants and most of all, its colorful array of amazing people. She has never left. Today, as a mother of two beautiful children, she was inspired to bring calm and thoughtfulness to their busy lives through meditation and visualization. This journey turned into a lifelong calling.
Through her private practice, a thoughtful way, as a Hypnotherapist, Therapeutic Guided Imagery Facilitator, educator and speaker, she helps many adults, teens and children maneuver their journeys with peaceful, life changing self -explorations. In addition, as a hypnotherapist at weSPARK, an amazing cancer support center in Sherman Oaks, she gives her nurturing guidance to those touched by cancer.
In an attempt to do her part for Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place, Jo’s heart is always open to give her time and expertise helping others to connect with their inner calm, their strength and their beauty.
For more info, go to http://www.athoughtfulway.com.