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14People have often looked at me sideways when they are droopy eyed and flagging whilst I am still bright eyed and bushy tailed and said – “Where do you get your energy from?” I smile, then giggle, and explain that because I laugh heartily every day and breathe fully, my body is oxygenated and invigorated which gives me energy in abundance!

Since practising Laughter Yoga, I have learnt many very helpful and beneficial techniques to breathe well and fill my body with oxygen. I have come across lots of people who are ‘shallow breathers’ which means they are breathing from the top of their lungs. At worst, these people spend most of their days holding onto their breath in one way or another, due to the tension and stress they feel. In New Zealand, we also have a large number of people who suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma, and so getting enough oxygen into the lungs is a big problem for a good percentage of the population.

There has been much scientific research regarding the effects of oxygen on the body over the years. One of the most notable scientists is Dr Otto Heinrich Warburg who received the Nobel Prize in 1931 for proving that cancer cells cannot live in the presence of oxygen. The cancer cell is a common cell, nothing very special until it begins to change from lack of oxygen. Poor breathing can also cause coughing, insomnia, snoring, asthma, bronchitis, flu, poor digestion, heart disease, swelling, inflammation, immune dysfunction, numbness, cramps, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, headaches, confusion, memory loss and dizziness. Phew!!! That information makes me want to take a very good breath in through my nose, and breathe out with a loud “haaaaaa..” sound, so that I can refresh my body with oxygen, right now!

The secret to good breathing is to breathe out twice as long as you breathe in. A great way to consciously do this at home is to do “synchronized breathing”. This exercise will help you regulate your breath, and at the same time it will calm your mind and makes you more relaxed. You can do this sitting with a straight back, feet flat on the floor or, lying flat on your back in bed at night, before going to sleep. It is a counting and breathing exercise. Take a breath in through your nose for a count of 3, hold it for a count of 3 and then gently blow out your breath as if you were blowing down a straw for a count of 6. Next, take a breath in for a count of 4, hold for 4 and breathe out for 8. Then, breathe in for a count of 5, hold for 5 and breathe out for 10. This pattern of breathing can be increased for as many counts as you can manage. Always breathe in and hold for the same count, then breathe out for twice the counts.

Another very simple way to get more oxygen into your body is to take a good breath in through your nose and stretch up your arms, hold your breath, hold it, hold it… then gently laugh your breath out as you bend over as far as you can. Then, slowly come back to an upright position, roll your shoulders and relax. Repeat this at least three times. This is the basic laughter yoga breathing and stretching exercise and it works wonders if you need a little boost of oxygen and energy!

A fun breathing and stretching exercise is to imagine you are picking a flower, then bring it to your nose and smell its fragrance – mmmmmmmmm!!! I am smelling a beautiful rose, what are you smelling? Then, let out a long sigh – aaaaaah! – it smelt so good.
May you all breathe well, breathe deeply and laugh loudly!