Laughter Yoga (Hasyayoga) is a form of Yoga, when you laugh voluntarily for a prolonged period of time. It has both psychological and physiological benefits. Importantly, the benefits are same when you laugh spontaneously.
You can practice Laughter Yoga with the help of eye contact with people in groups, laughing on jokes or playfulness amongst group members. As soon as you start laughing voluntarily it becomes real and contagious.
Laughter Yoga started in the 1990’s in parks near residences. You could see elderly people gather and practice it as an exercise. Developed by ZDr. Madan Kataria and Indian physician and mentions about this Yoga form in his book Laugh for No Reason (2002).
Do you know Laughter Yoga (one of the most fun forms of Yoga) is present in 53 countries. Moreover, 200 of Yoga Clubs out of a total of 500 worldwide are in the USA.
Laughter Yoga is practiced without any genuine or humorous reason to laugh. It normally starts with warm-up techniques of: Stretching, eye contact, body movement, chanting to overcome any inhibitions. It aims to encourage a sense of playfulness.
Perform breathing (Pranayama) exercises to prepare the lungs to laugh. Firstly clap your hands keeping them parallel to each other. This stimulates your energy as it presses the acupressure points on your hands. Clap in a 1-2-3 rhythm while moving your hand up and down and swinging them on the side.
Start chanting in sync with your hand movements. Say aloud “ha-ha-ha, ho-ho”, inhaling and exhaling deep from your diaphragm.
This is followed by a Lion Laughter exercise derived from the Lion Posture. Here you open your mouth to stick your tongue out as much as you can. Fold your elbows as you raise your hands and pint the thumb towards your ears without touching them. Keep the palm of your hand open like a fan and roar followed by laughter from your belly. This makes you shift to a playful mood and helps you to loosen up your inhibitions.
Along with laughter always remember to practice deep breathing exercises. The more you laugh deeply the more you will breathe deep. To activate the breath in your diaphragm located just below your last ribs, place your hands here and inhale and exhale deeply. Count 4 slowly as you inhale and then exhale through your nose to the same count. Laugh twice when you exhale. An interesting manner to inhale and exhale is by chanting mantras on whatever you want to let go in your life. For example – Inhale Gratitude – Exhale Anger, Inhale Healing – Exhale – Letting Go or releasing past.
Do playful exercises to keep the enthusiasm up for laughter and joy. To motivate yourself you could play songs to motivate you or do some funny tricks to laugh. You could pretend you are itching every where you touch and laugh out aloud by jumping back and then touching something else. In total you laugh for about 20 minutes for physiological benefits.
- Laughter reduces cortisol and stress hormones: In case these hormones are high they cause diseases like – weight gain, blood pressure or memory loss.
- Laughter Yoga raises endorphins: As a result the pain in the body reduces. Yoga increases endorphins and decreases cortisol.
- Massages the lymphatic system and increases its circulation: Laughing out aloud with deep inhales and exhales will make your abdominal organs massaged. Your lymphatic system gets massaged and it helps the digestive system to function properly.
- Stronger cardiovascular System: Laughter keeps your blood pressure in check and lowers your pulse rate too – with the result your cardiovascular system becomes stronger.
- Strengthens Immune System: By laughing your immune system boosts as it raises the level of anti-infection cells.
- Stress Buster: Laughter is the best form of catharsis and release of pent up emotions. It helps you deal with mental issues, anger and depression. It is one of the easiest forms of exercise to release stress that could be life-threatening.
- Increases Emotional Intelligence: Laughter Yoga makes you feel like a child while you playfully laugh and have fun. Therefore it enhances your emotional intelligence and social skills as well.