A new Yoga from India is sweeping the world, with hundreds of thousands of followers in more than 50 countries laughing together every day. Laughter Yoga, created by Mumbai medical doctor Madan Kataria just ten years ago, is very different from the yoga at your yoga studio.
Laughter yoga uses no difficult poses and takes only a few minutes to learn. You don’t have to wait months or years to see the benefits, followers say you’ll feel great and stress-free after just one session.
We asked the founder of laughter yoga, Indian medical doctor Madan Kataria, about his new yoga.
As a doctor and medical author I became fascinated by the benefits of laughter, says Dr Kataria. Both ancient scripts and modern scientific research highlight a great many benefits of laughter --- laughter could clearly help many of my patients with a wide range of problems, from depression to heart disease, high blood pressure, stress problems and more.
The problem was how to get people to laugh heartily for 15 minutes or more? There was no way to prescribe laughter to a patient.
Some yoga exercises approximate laughter, but they demand training and perseverance. We tried humor but quickly ran out of fresh jokes, and not everyone finds the same things funny. I was determined to find a way to get people laughing easily so we could deliver the huge benefits of laughter to people.
Eventually we found some techniques that worked and kept experimenting daily to develop techniques to make it easy to laugh without using jokes or humor. We borrowed from yoga and also from other disciplines. We tried many different approaches and monitored the health benefits to participants. People who participated in our laughter groups went off and started their own groups and made some breakthroughs that we incorporated.
Eventually we created laughter yoga, a simple system that now includes hundreds of different exercises, with new exercises being created daily in thousands of laughter clubs and studios in more than 50 countries.
Laughter yoga was developed as a ‘laughter delivery system’. Laughter is one of the healthiest activities for the human body, but in today’s world we don’t laugh nearly enough. Kids laugh spontaneously, often 400 times a day, but adults use a process of mental judgment to decide whether to laugh or not, and they don’t laugh nearly enough.
The simple truth, says Dr Kataria, is that laughter is an essential body function. To be completely healthy and happy, human beings need to laugh. Laughter counters the effects of stress on our bodies, gives us a positive ‘joyful’ attitude to life, eliminates depression and boosts our immune system.
It seems we can laugh too little, but we cannot laugh too much. A laughter yoga session of 20-30 minutes provides the hearty laughter we need for a great and healthy day. People who practice laughter yoga daily report amazing improvements to their health as well as a more positive mental attitude and higher energy levels.
The first thing participants tell me, says Dr Kataria, is that they don’t become sick very often. Normal colds and flu’s reduce in frequency or even disappear. I receive daily reports of partial or total cures of most of the stress-related illnesses including heart disease, depression, asthma, arthritis, allergies, stiff muscles and more. While this sounds fantastic, it all makes perfect sense. Most illness today is stress related and laughter is nature’s cure for stress.
Our body’s stress reactions were designed to be balanced by laughter, says Kataria. Our stress mechanism was important to our survival as a species, but it designed to be triggered very seldom with long periods of laughter to keep us healthy. The trouble with modern life is that we have almost continuous stress. The medical term is chronic stress. Couple this with decreased laughter and you can see why illness is skyrocketing. This imbalance of too much stress and too little laughter makes us sick.
Major studies in Europe and America indicate that around 80% of all illness today is stress related. Other studies confirm that around 80% of all medicine prescribed is for stress related illness and conditions. Chronic stress is making us sick, attacking our immune system and making us venerable to infections, virus attack and cancers.
We can fight this plague of stress-related illness with drugs, or we can use laughter to heal ourselves. When we laugh heartily for more than 10 minutes our bodies begin to produce a cocktail of hormones and chemicals that neutralize stress and boost our immune system. It’s incredible – we have built-in chemical plants that make thousands of dollars worth of anti-stress medications every time we laugh for an extended period.
That’s why people are coming to laughter yoga. After your first laughter session you can feel things happening in your body. You get energized. Your mood changes. You feel great. If you continue to laugh regularly you start experiencing big changes in your mental and physical health. People who practice laughter yoga are much happier and healthier, they can cope with stress better, they have a positive outlook on life.
Don’t take my word for it, try it. Or ask anyone who has laughed with us for a few months. In India the government has realized the benefits. Cities have created areas for laughter yoga in every public park. In Australia, Singapore and other countries laughter yoga has been promoted by the government.
I am inundated by requests for training in laughter yoga. We have already trained thousands of certified laughter yoga professionals and are working hard to find ways to train many more.
Laughter yoga is available free through more than 5,000 clubs around the world and is now being introduced into yoga studios, fitness centers, schools and business and government offices around the world.