General Article on Laughter Yoga - An Overview

Tuesday, 9 April 2013 15:45:37Back

Laughter is the best medicine; we all know that. But, in today’s high pressure, high tension, and competitive world, laughter is fast disappearing. Earlier, people laughed at least 18 minutes a day, but nowadays we laugh not more than 6 minutes per day, despite the huge increase in the standard of living. Children can laugh up to 300-400 times in a day, but as adults this frequency drops to only 15 times a day.

Researchers have proved that laughter has the ability to unwind the negative effects of stress: the catalyst for many of our health problems. More than 70 per cent of illnesses-- such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, frequent coughs and colds, peptic ulcers, insomnia, allergies, asthma, tension headaches, stomach upsets and even cancer--are in some way related to stress.

It has been scientifically shown that laughter lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscles, improves blood circulation, increases oxygen level in the body, elevates mood, brings hope, enhances communication and most importantly boosts the immune system, which is the master key for maintaining good health. But, until now there was no reliable and effective system to deliver laughter. Humor was the only tool available, and it is not reliable and seldom leads to continuous hearty laughter.

Laughter Yoga – A Breakthrough

Laughter Yoga is a breakthrough laughter delivery system that enables a person to laugh continuously for 15 to 20 minutes. It is a powerful exercise routine fast sweeping the world and is a complete wellbeing workout.

It is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician from Mumbai who started the first laughter club in a park on 13th March 1995, with just 5 people. Today, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 6000 social laughter clubs in 60 countries. It combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (PRANAYAMA).Anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group but with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.

The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.

This innovative concept has been widely accepted all over the world and has been written about in prestigious publications like TIME Magazine, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Daily Telegraph (UK) and many others. Laughter clubs were also featured on Oprah Winfrey Show, BBC, CNN, ZDF (Germany) NHK (Japan), ABC news (USA) and many other TV networks around the world. Several documentaries have also been shown in different languages worldwide. This strong media coverage has helped to spread Laughter Yoga to almost every part of the world with more and more people joining the laughter family.

Why Laughter Yoga - 3 Reasons

1. In order to get the scientifically proven health benefits of laughter, we need to laugh continuously for at least for 10 to 15 minutes. Since in Laughter Yoga we do laughter as an exercise, we can prolong our laughter as long as we want. On the other hand, natural laughter comes for just a few seconds here and there and is not enough to bring about physiological and biochemical changes in our body.

2. To reap the health benefits of laughter, laughter has to be loud and deep coming from the diaphragm. It should be a belly laugh. It might not be socially acceptable to laugh loudly, but Laughter Yoga clubs provide a safe environment where one can laugh loudly and heartily without any social implication.

3. Natural laughter that courses through our life depends upon many reasons and conditions, but there are not many reasons which make us laugh. That means we are leaving laughter to chance, it may happen it may not. In contrast, in Laughter Yoga club we are not leaving laughter to chance, but doing it out of commitment. This is a guaranteed way of getting the health benefits of laughter.

Laughter Clubs Free for All: Laughter Yoga clubs are social clubs, free for all. There is no membership fee, no forms and no fuss. They are run by volunteers trained as laughter teachers and leaders. These clubs are non-political, non-religious and non-profit run under the aegis of Laughter Clubs International in India and Laughter Yoga International in the rest of the world.

Mission - World Peace: The ultimate objective is to bring good health, joy and world peace through laughter. Laughter is a universal with no language and cultural barriers. Laughter Yoga clubs are fast developing into a worldwide community of like-minded people who believe in unconditional love, laughter and fellowship. Every first Sunday of May is celebrated as World Laughter Day. In the year 2000, nearly 10,000 people laughed together in Copenhagen Denmark to create a Guinness book of records.

Life Changing Experience

In India there are thousands of Laughter Yoga clubs that meet every morning in public parks. Club members proudly report that they haven't missed a day in five years or more. They say it makes them happy, healthy and energized - in effect, it has changed their lives.

They are full of positive energy that makes it easy to cope with stress and impossible to be depressed. In fact, the impact of laughter is so profound that many practitioners claim they no longer need anti depressants. The sustained positive emotions keep them coming back for more.

Participants report significant health improvements. Many felt a reduced frequency of respiratory infections like common cold and flu, while others reported depression lifting, chronic medical problems improving or even disappearing. As the word spread, it was obvious that Laughter Yoga was helping people to become healthier.

Scientifically Proven: Clinical research on Laughter Yoga methods conducted at the University of Graz in Austria, Bangalore (India) as well as in the United States has shown that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood. It fosters a positive and hopeful attitude. One is less likely to succumb to stress and feelings of depression and helplessness if one is able to laugh away the troubles.

Different Fields of Applications

Laughter yoga in Schools: In India, Laughter yoga has been introduced in many schools in the cities of Surat, Baroda and Bangalore. That includes 10 minutes of laughter in morning assembly followed by five minutes of laughter session in the classrooms at the beginning and at the end of the day.

This regular practice has shown that the mood and atmosphere changes for the better. Teachers and students are happier with a more positive outlook, communication is improved, less discipline is required and attendance improved. Academic results have shown improvement. Apart from India, there are laughter clubs in Ithaca College in NY and Minnesota that attracts many youngsters and are fast becoming popular.

Laughter Yoga for Business World: Scientific research shows us that laughter can help to resolve many major workplace issues, but until now there has been no reliable and effective system to deliver laughter. Humor was the only tool available, but it is not reliable and seldom leads to continuous hearty laughter.

Laughter Yoga is a breakthrough laughter delivery system that can enable a person to laugh continuously for 15 to 20 minutes with short breaks of yogic breathing. Many Laughter Yoga professionals have presented sessions to business with positive results.

The concept is gaining popularity in companies and corporations in India, Denmark, US and many other countries. It is a powerful force for improving staff performance in the workplace. This was recently confirmed by studies in India and the USA that showed substantial stress reduction and a big increase in staff ability to perform their jobs after just three weeks of laughter sessions.

Laughter Yoga with Seniors: Laughter Yoga is being practiced among seniors in many aged care facilities in Canada, USA, Israel and Europe. There is a distinct rise in life expectancy with improvement in health care and advance in medical technology. In fact, ten years from now the number of older people would have almost doubled.

Faced with age and age related troubles, seniors find their physical and mental faculties on the decline. Since the cognitive abilities in seniors are compromised due to senile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, they find it difficult to comprehend humor. Therefore, Laughter Yoga is the ideal form of exercise routine that can help them to get complete health benefits of laughter.

Laughter Yoga with Cancer Patients: There are hundreds of people in laughter clubs all over the world who are suffering from cancer, but laughter has brought a new hope into their lives. Many have reported that regular laughter sessions have benefited them tremendously.

Cancer is the next biggest killer after depression and heart problems. Scientific research has proved that Laughter has a profound impact on the immune system which decides the course of survival of cancer patients. Laughter Yoga has been effectively implemented in many cancer hospitals helping the patients and the care givers to cope with the pain and trauma. Swedish Cancer Hospital in Chicago, USA does regular Laughter Yoga while patients are taking chemotherapy.

Laughter Yoga in Prisons: Laughter yoga is being practiced in several prisons in India, Europe and USA. Famous British actor John Cleese visited Mumbai prison in the year 2001 when he was making documentary for BBC on human expressions. He found that laughter had a major impact on the prisoners and the atmosphere in general lightened.

With increase in crime all over the world, the prisons are over burdened with prisoners harboring negative emotions and thoughts. Laughter Yoga is a great method of dissipating these feelings of anger and frustration. Many prisons in India have found Laughter Yoga an effective tool to release their negative emotions. There are positive changes in prisoner attitude and better prisoner-staff relations and reduced violence.

Laughter Yoga with Physically and Mentally Challenged: Laughter Yoga has made a major difference in the lives of many people with physical and mental disabilities in India, Canada, USA and Portugal. In fact, in Bangalore, India, the introduction of Laughter Yoga for the mentally and the physically challenged children has revealed a marked improvement in their motor and expressive skills and control in hyper activeness.

Many such people who come to these sessions in wheel chairs have shown tremendous improvement in their physical condition and mental health.

Laughter Yoga has also been introduced in many blind schools and among the deaf and mute children to help them cope with their disabilities and generate a more positive attitude, which will help them to enhance their wellbeing.

5 Benefits of Laughter Yoga

One of the most motivating factors for people to join Laughter Yoga Clubs is the belief in the multiple health benefits they will derive from it. It is not about the concept or the philosophy which attracts them; eventually it is only about what they will get and how it will benefit their lives.

Most benefits of Laughter Yoga can be explained under 5 categories that are easy to remember.

1. Health Benefits

The health benefits of laughter come in 2 categories: 1. For people who are not sick and want to stay healthy. 2. For those who have some illness, LY helps to heal faster. People come regularly to the laughter clubs because it helps them to stay fit. It strengthens the immune system and one does not fall sick easily. Laughter Yoga is a powerful cardio workout and just 10 minutes of hearty laughter is equal to 30 minutes on the rowing machine. It increases blood circulation and relaxes the muscles. It is also a powerful antidote for depression, reduces blood pressure, reduces symptoms of allergies, asthma, arthritis and helps in chronic illnesses like cancer. Stress today is the number one killer and more than 70-80 percent of illnesses are due to stress. Laughter Yoga is a single exercise routine which reduces physical, mental and emotional stress simultaneously and brings an emotional balance. People can feel the benefits from the very first session.

2. Personal Life

Your mood states determine the quality of your life. Laughter Yoga has the power to change your mood within minutes by releasing certain chemicals from your brain called endorphins. If your mood is good, you feel good within and will remain cheerful through out the day. Laughter Yoga also helps to develop a sense of humor and you will laugh more in real life. You will always have a smiling face, a positive outlook towards life and very few negative thoughts.

3. Business life

Laughter Yoga is most economical, less time consuming and scientifically proven technique to reduce stress in the workplace. Science tells us that the brain needs 25% more oxygen than other body organs for optimal functioning. Laughter Yoga increases the net supply of oxygen which helps in optimal performance. One feels energized and fresh throughout the day and can work more without getting tired.

Group laughter can create a happy and motivated workforce which includes a strong team building element.

For those in marketing and sales it enhances self confidence and communication skills. In H R trainings Laughter Yoga is a very effective tool for increasing attention span during prolonged sessions. Also, when you are laughing and playing, you are more creative in your business.

4. Social Life

The quality of life and life satisfaction does not depend on how much money, power, position and success you have in life, rather it depends on the number of good friends with whom we have a caring and sharing relationship. Laughter is a powerful tool to connect with people easily. After the basic survival needs what we all need is appreciation and acknowledgement for our emotional development. Laughter clubs provide a rich social network of people who care about one another. This provides a sense of emotional security which resists stress and helps to fight depression which is number one sickness today.

5. Laughing in the Face of Challenges

In times of difficulty, it is not easy to remain calm. By imbibing the essence of Laughter Yoga and its characteristics, one can learn to handle any situation effectively without losing their composure. It will keep a positive mental attitude so that you can cope with negative situations and deal with difficult persons in a much better way than a normal person can.

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