Laughter Yoga is a practice of Indian origin and consists in performing a liberating laughter induced through a series of breathing exercises and movements followed by the vocalization “Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha”.
Its purpose is to obtain physical and mental improvement thanks to the suppression of stress hormones such as cortisol. It also facilitates increased oxygen uptake, which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the body’s natural relaxation system.
In addition to this, it is an activity that does not require any particular athletic condition. This means that it embraces and involves any age group, without any discrimination, as long as you are in good physical condition.
Considering all these elements, therefore, let’s try to find out more in detail what Laughter Yoga consists of and the reasons for its success.
Laughter Yoga: find out what it is and what its origins are
In America, Laughter Yoga began to spread as a practice around the mid-2000s. Despite this, however, the discipline has more distant origins.
It all began in India, specifically in Mumbai, in 1995. Here Dr. Madan Kataria used her experience as a family doctor to structure a practice to give mental and physical relief to some patients. In this way what can be defined as the laughter club was born.
The first session dates back to March 13, 1995 in a public park. An appointment attended by only a small group of people. Over the course of almost twenty years, however, Laughter Yoga has managed to gain more and more attention, igniting the curiosity of many.
So much so that, to date, there are over 6000 clubs in over 110 countries and the practice is becoming increasingly popular online. Additionally, laughter coaches are bringing seminars directly to places like college campuses, workplaces, and senior facilities. Which highlights, on balance, the real need to laugh again or learn how to do it again.
The Purpose of Laughter Yoga
The Laughter Yoga method was designed to help people deal with some psychological issues. In fact, discipline can be essential in lifting your mood, reducing stress, strengthening your immune system, boosting your energy levels and helping you manage difficulties.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that Laughter Yoga is now used as a support therapy and completion of a wider path, to intervene on some disorders such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks. But how can intentional laughter replace spontaneous laughter?
Difference between natural laughter and induced laughter
Some studies have shown that there is no difference between induced and extemporaneous laughter. Both provide the same benefits as the human body cannot tell the difference between the two.
This was revealed by the studies carried out by Paul Ekman. American psychologist, best known for his studies on the recognition of emotions and different facial expressions, has found that both laughter sends the same signal to the brain and in particular to the amygdala.
It is the oldest part of our brain, trained to recognize what is familiar and therefore safe, and what is not known and therefore potentially dangerous. In addition to this, then, the benefits on the body are also the same.
The benefits of laughter yoga
Like most disciplines of respiratory and meditative origin, laughter yoga must also be practiced over time to ensure noticeable improvements. Despite this, however, it is possible to make a difference between immediate effects and long-term effects.
Among the immediate beneficial elements of the practice of Laughter Yoga is the lowering of stress hormones, such as cortisol, and purification. In particular, this occurs through an automatic act such as breathing. Thus, in fact, the body gets rid of carbon dioxide which, otherwise, would remain inside the cells.
In this sense we can say that laughter helps purify us. But not only. Thanks to laughter yoga, in fact, the brain gets 25% more oxygen it needs than the other organs, increasing efficiency and concentration.
Long term effects
With the constant and prolonged practice of Laughter Yoga over time, what are defined as the hormones of happiness are activated.
These are endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. Their increase leads to a lower perception of pain, lowering of blood pressure, an increase in the immune system and a decrease in depression levels.
Not to be underestimated, then, is also the social aspect. Practicing Laughter Yoga, in fact, involves being part of a group and sharing emotions. Two aspects that amplify the connection and strengthen relationship skills.
How does laughter yoga work?
Laughter Yoga is usually practiced in a group setting, such as a club or workshop, and led by a qualified instructor who coaches the participants through various exercises to promote enjoyment and laughter. Most sessions begin with simple breathing techniques, clapping, and chanting to help participants relax.
Although it may seem silly at first, the intention of these exercises is to remove any internal judgment by letting go of one’s ego. Indeed, one of the essential elements of the sessions is the total absence of shame or sense of ridicule. A condition that can be achieved by leaving one’s social role outside the context.
The session can also include improvisation exercises, quoting:
- Positive affirmations.
- Gentle stretch.
- Yoga breathing work.
Collectively, these practices are meant to help you laugh, let go, and take yourself less seriously. In this way, therefore, more attention is paid to the long-term benefits of regular and daily laughter.
The essential exercises of Laughter Yoga
Let’s look specifically at the different phases of a Laughter Yoga class. Specifically, there are three:
Each of these is absolutely essential to obtain an induced laughter and subsequent beneficial effects. For this reason it is recommended to pay particular attention to the instructions and timing with which the instructors guide the group within the session.
The first step is represented by the right arrangement of the participants. These, in fact, are placed in a circle. A strategic way to allow everyone to have a view of the rest of the group and not to give anyone the opportunity to hide or give in to initial shame.
Once this is done, then, we start with a few seconds in which deep inhalations and exhalations alternate, trying to clear the mind and relax.
This is followed by the first warm-up exercise. It is about producing a rhythmic clap with the hands, at the end of which add the vocalization “Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha”, which imitates Kapalbhati breathing. In this way the perception of the group is reinforced and the energy begins to be stimulated.
The second warm-up exercise, on the other hand, involves the use of the Gibberish language. After clapping again, therefore, the instructor encourages the participants to exchange syllables and sounds without logical sense in pairs. The purpose of this exercise is to disconnect the mind from any rational thought.
In this way, in fact, we free ourselves by preparing the right ground for laughter. Also in this case everything ends with the vocalization “Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha”.
In this phase, exercises aimed at eliciting induced laughter are performed. At the beginning and at the end of each of them, there is a moment of breathing.
But what are the most practiced exercises during Laughter Yoga? Specifically, these are 9 different types of laughter that make up a thirty-minute lesson.
Each of them must last a maximum of 40 seconds and end with a clap of the hands, the vocalization “Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha” and two deep breaths.
The welcome laugh
The exercise involves joining the palms of the hands and greeting, as per the Indian tradition or giving hands to 4/5 people in the group. Both of these actions must be accompanied by laughter.
Remaining in their position in the circle, each participant is asked to produce a laugh by raising their arms towards the sky and tilting their heads slightly back. In this way you get a laugh that comes directly from the heart, completely opening the ribcage.
The appreciative laugh
He joins the tip of his index finger with the tip of his thumb, forming a small circle and making movements simultaneously with laughter, to show that he appreciates the person being addressed. This is usually an exercise to be done in pairs.
The laugh a meter long
In this case a hand must be slid over the outstretched arm, as if you were trying to shoot an arrow with a bow. Subsequently the hand moves with three different movements while vocalizing “Ae, Ae, Aeee”.
At the end he bursts into laughter that comes from the belly. Finally, then, the arms are extended upwards, with a slight inclination of the head backwards. It is necessary to repeat the exercise 4 times.
The leader divides the participants into pairs, making them…