Breathing is very fundamental to our life. We can live without food and water for several days but we can not survive without breathing even for few minutes. According to yoga the energy of life( Life energy force) flows from the universal energy through our breath. Medically this energy of life can be equated with oxygen which is the basis of all metabolic activities and functioning of enzymes systems in our body cells. The lack of proper breathing is the root cause of less oxygen supply to our body cells.
Dual function of Breathing
Breathing is the only automatic process which has dual function. It goes automatic like heart beat under autonomic centers of the brain as well as it can be changed at will. With our deliberate conscious mind we can prolong the breath, shorten it or even hold the breath. By changing the way we breathe, we can change physiological functions at will. By moving our respiratory muscles we can expand our breathing capacity and increase the amount of oxygen to our body.
How prolonged Exhalation brings more oxygen
In order to understand how Laughter Yoga helps to improve oxygen to our body cells we need to understand physiology of breathing. Total normal capacity of human (male) lung is 6 Liters( 6000ml)plus minus 20%, depending upon the gender and body frame. Out of total 6 Liters capacity, lungs retain a 1200 ml to keep the lung cells called alveoli inflated. This is called residual air that can not be removed. Therefore, one can move up to 4800 ml of air in and out of lungs. This is called Forced Vital Capacity or FVC. But not everyone has the capability of using full 6 Litres capacity. Deep divers, swimmers and other athletes train themselves to utilize more than average capacity of their lungs.
During the normal breathing cycle (respiration), we inhale and exhale up to 500 ml to 700 ml of air (called Tidal Volume). Normally, we leave 2400 ml of air in the lungs as Reserve Volume after the tidal breath out. Out 2400ml we can only force exhale 1200 ml as other 1200 ml is required to keep lung cells inflated that can not be exhaled. Therefore with laughter exercises we can get rid of extra 1200 ml of stale air which when replace by fresh air give more amount of oxygen. The inhaled air is oxygen rich, whereas the residual air stale and stagnant and has more CO2. Effective emptying of our lungs depends upon the the effective use of diaphragm which is the major muscle of respiration. Laughter yoga exercises followed by deep diaphragmatic breathing helps us to renew the residual air in the lungs and that increases the net supply of oxygen to our body cells.
Also with deep breathing exercises we do in Laughter Yoga session we can force inhale up to 2500ml to 3000 ml (2.5L to 3L) of air which can increase net supply of oxygen.
Due to shallow breathing many of alveoli in the lungs ( the air cells) do not expand fully and do not participate in respiration. Deep breathing exercises keep them open to participate in gas exchange to increase the supply of oxygen.The exchange of gases that take place in your lungs is called pulmonary respiration.
Ultimately we need oxygen for metabolism. The oxygen that is transferred to blood stream from inhaled air is utilized in mitochondria in the body cells (including brain cells) to generate energy by oxidation of glucose through a process called metabolism. This is called tissue respiration.
Brain is an amazingly hungry organ it is only 2% of the human body weight, yet it consumes 20% of the energy mitochondria produces and requires more than 25% of the oxygen out of the blood stream. Many experiments have shown that one can increase brain alertness by either increasing glucose supply to the brain or the supply of oxygen to make the energy production more efficient. Deep breathing helps with the better oxygen supply.
Therefore your ability to breathe deeply depends upon you ability to exhale longer so as to empty the lungs and get rid of residual air which has more stale air with CO2. Also proper expansion of thoracic cavity. Laughter Yoga is an art of exhaling longer and that helps you exhale CO2 stagnant residual air from the lungs and hence increase the oxygen supply to your body and the brain. Laughter yoga is based on age old yogic wisdom of prolonged exhalation helps us to bring more oxygen to the body and brain. Imagine thousands of years ago no one knew about physiology of breathing but yogis knew by the way of experience that prolonged exhalation is the way to bring more oxygen to your body cells.
Exhaling longer than inhalation might take some practice and efforts but Laughing for no reason is the easiest way to force your stale air out of your longs in order to get more oxygen to your body cells.The iconic posture of Laughter Yoga, laughing by Spreading arms up towards the sky allows chest to expand, so lungs get more space to expand. Laughing from the belly helps to move your Diaphragm efficiently and expand the abdomen so lungs get more space to expand.