Are you hearing giggles and guffaws, shrieks and snickers, cackles and hoots at your local yoga center or fitness club? Laughter yoga is sweeping the world and your local gym or fitness club could be next. Is laughter the next BIG THING?
Scientists are using cutting edge research to understand how our bodies work and why we get sick. Guess what they’re finding..? We need to laugh!
This is not about funny movies and comedians telling jokes. An Indian medical doctor has figured out how we can laugh without jokes and humor and his system called laughter yoga is sweeping the world. Don’t be surprised if you’re soon laughing too.
LAUGHTER YOGA - THE EXPERIENCE
My Chinese friend Ho --- I kid you not, that's his name --- invited me to join a laughter yoga session. I thought he was kidding. Laughter is fun and loud and yoga is quiet and… well yoga.
We met at a third floor yoga studio at seven. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it had to be a laugh, right? The crowd was eclectic, oldies to kids, some suits, some workers, some people in yoga gear.
Dr Kataria arrived. He is an Indian medical doctor and developed laughter yoga ten years ago. He is friendly, relaxed. Wow, laughter yoga is hot in the media. I feel the presence of greatness.
Let’s get going he says, and we’re soon doing gentle stretches and clapping and chanting. He’s warming us up he says. Most of us are newbies not knowing what to expect. Warming us up for what? So far no surprises.
Now, he says, we’re here to laugh so lets do it. No jokes tonight. I’ll show you the exercises and you follow. Stretch, deep breath, exploding laugh. Stretch, deep breath, exploding laugh. That feels OK, but it’s not funny...
Well done, he says boosting us. Lets try another one. You have an imaginary mobile phone – hold it to your ear and laugh into it. Move around, look at every one else’s mobile phones and laughter, keep moving, make eye contact, OK, here we go.
I feel stupid. I feel ridiculous. Ah well, let’s do it and see where it goes. Everyone else is moving and laughing. Oh gosh they look funny. Eye contact. I lose myself. Suddenly I’m shrieking with laughter and so is everybody else.
It doesn't stop. We do one-meter laughter, we do laughter pills, laughter cream, lion laughter and the laughter roars. We are here and now and this feels so good.
In between we chant and stretch and do breathing exercises but we’re right in the moment and when we do laughter exercises it is absolutely real. I feel like a child laughing, this is joy.
Ok says the Doctor, 30 minutes. Enough laughter exercises. Lets spread out and sit down. Just relax and be quiet. Breathe deeply, hold it, relax. He’s in charge and we follow. Relax…
A roar, a shriek, the laughter is back. In seconds it explodes from us without control. Oops, check the Doctor. Lie down he says. Then he’s roaring and rolling on the floor with us. It’s OK.
This is different, free form. No exercises. It comes in waves, twenty five people came in normal and now we’re laughing uncontrollably. It’s a fountain, gushing from us, our centers, no thought, no goals, just laughter.
We’re sweating, hearts pounding, here and now, hear me now, hear my laughter. I haven’t laughed like this for so long, maybe never. Quick glimpses --- yes it's general, group hysteria.
This is amazing, wonderful, centered. We laugh. It feels like minutes, it feels like hours, my throat is sore, my eyes streaming, my sides ache, it ebbs it flows but the laughter keeps coming. It is primal. Where does it come from, how can we have so much laughter inside us?
I am lost in laughter. There is no room, no people, no city, no body, only laughter and energy. Is this bliss? It feels so good.
Slowly the energy slows. I hear the Doctor talking. A gentle voice, relax, feel your head, fell it relax, feel your forehead, feel it relax. Through giggles, chortles and bursts we follow, eventually becoming silent and relaxed. Oh I feel good.
Roll over slowly, raise your self sit up. Happy grins. Wow where have we been? Spaced out but feeling good. Clear.
Just breathe. Come back. Where was I? That felt so good. Doctor is talking about laughter yoga. I hear laughter meditation. That’s where I was. My first meditation. I never thought I could do that. Wow.
Slowly I center. I’m back. I’m hot, I’m definitely exercised. I’m full of energy. I feel electrical, great. I definitely need more of this. I’ll be back, when’s the next session? This is for me.
Bill Gee experienced his first laughter yoga session in Kuala Lumpur. He trained in laughter yoga and now works in laughter yoga.
LAUGHTER YOGA FACTS
Laughter yoga approaches laughter as a body exercise.
The system allows long and hearty laughter through a series of yogic breathing exercises and specially developed laughter exercises. No jokes or humor are used.
It was developed in India by Dr Madan Kataria in 1994 and is now practiced by hundreds of thousands of people in more than 50 countries, making it the fastest growing exercise regime in history.
It has been called ‘instant yoga’ because benefits that may take years to achieve in posture yoga can be achieved in the first session. No special clothes, skills or training are needed. Sessions are guided by laughter yoga leaders who are trained and certified. There are hundreds of exercises so each session is different.
Groups range from 10 to 80 but larger groups of 1,000 meet regularly and groups of 10,000 people have laughed together.
Hearty laughter is an aerobic workout that exercises the heart. Laughter sessions exercise the diaphragm, abdominal, intercostal, respiratory and facial muscles. They include flexing and exercise of the arm, leg, and back muscles. It strengthens our facial muscles reducing wrinkles and leaving us looking younger.
20 minutes of hearty laughter is equivalent to 10 minutes on an exercise bike.
Scientific studies have revealed that: laughter improves cardiovascular health and reduces high blood pressure. Laughter treats depression. Laughter boosts our body’s oxygen and energy levels. Laughter boosts levels of blood cells that attack cancer, infection and virus. Laughter releases endorphin, a natural pain killer that is responsible for the ‘runner’s high’. Laughter stimulates the lymphatic system and boosts our immune system. Laughter reduces levels of stress poisons in our bodies by 50% or more in minutes. Laughter helps us cope with stress. Laughter speeds healing.
Laughter is the opposite of stress. Stress kills, laughter heals. Stress switches off our digestive, sexual and immune systems. Laughter switches them back on and boosts them. Laughter is natures own stress buster.
Laughter yoga is available free through more than 5,000 laughter clubs worldwide. These typically meet in parks or public spaces at regular times. Some request donations to cover venue costs.
Laughter yoga is fast becoming available in yoga studios and fitness centers. A fee is charged for the venue and selection of convenience timeslots. It is also spreading to schools, aged care facilities, companies, government offices and hospitals.
Training for laughter yoga leaders and teachers is available at low cost worldwide.