Among the many yoga trends that have popped up over the years is Laughter Yoga. Even before I heard about the practice, I’d been in classes where laughing on cue for no reason as part of the practice.
For example, yoga teacher Doron Hanoch often invites his students to roll from side to side and laugh in happy baby pose. I think it helps his sometimes intensely-focused Asthanga students take themselves a little less seriously for a few moments!
It turns out there a lot of benefits to laughing, which is probably why Madan Kataria created Laughter Yoga. Kataria, who also founded Laughter Yoga University, started teaching his signature yoga in the mid-nineties. It caught on! Today, there are Laughter Yoga clubs around the world.
As Wikipedia describes it, Laughter Yoga “is a practice involving prolonged voluntary laughter.” If you’ve ever tried to laugh on purpose for no apparent reason, you know it can take a bit of getting used to. But once you start, laughing in yoga (or anywhere) is contagious!
We’ve all been in situations where someone else’s laughter makes us laugh,even if we don’t know why they’re laughing. The idea behind laughter yoga is the same. And once we begin laughing, we benefit from the endorphins that flood the body whenever we laugh.
There are many other benefits—both physical and mental—of laughing.
Laughing is a Yogi’s Best Medicine
You’ve probably heard that laughter is the best medicine. If you’re a yogi, Laughter Yoga may be the best medicine of all.
Science backs up the idea that laughter improves relaxation and health. Specifically, laughing (especially belly laughs) can:
- reduce stress by decreasing levels of stress hormones.
- release endorphins, the body’s “feel good” chemicals.
- lower blood pressure.
- boost the immune system.
- improves the circulation of blood, which in turn helps increase oxygen to the brain.
- and of course, make you feel happier.
But Why is it Yoga?
In most Laughter Yoga classes, you won’t practice downward-facing dog or sun salutations. So, why is it yoga? It’s yoga, Dr. Kataria explains, because it has the same goal as other yogic paths: to integrate and harmonize. Laughter Yoga also incorporates yogic breathing, or pranayama, into each session.
How to Practice Laughter Yoga
A typical Laughter Yoga session might begin with clapping hands in rhythmic pattern. Then, practitioners might start chanting something like “ho ho ha ha ha” to the rhythm of their clapping hands. They synchronize the chants with their breath. Next, the laughing yogis might move around the room, practicing lion’s breath and doing other “silly” things.
At some point, the yogis begin to practice forced belly laughing. In some cases, the laughter isn’t forced but comes naturally. Eventually,everyone is laughing hysterically!
If this all sounds too contrived to be real, give it a try and see for yourself! If you can’t find a Laughter Yoga class (or if you’d rather try it on your own first), there are lots of videos to get you started.
And if you have tried Laughter Yoga, we’d love to know what you thought of the experience. Tell us in the comments below!