If you’ve ever wondered how to make fitness more fun, laughing yoga just might have you rolling on the floor. Laughing yoga sessions, which combine an exercise class with playtime and catharsis, focus on bringing out your joyous inner child through play and laughter.
What is Laughing Yoga?
The strength you build will aid in helping you sit and stand taller. The cues you receive from your yoga teachers in each asana (yoga pose) will create new habits that will lengthen your neck, relax your shoulders. Better posture reduces tension and stress on the body leading to an overall feeling of well-being.
Benefits of Laughing Yoga
The main benefits of laughing yoga include:
- Enhanced Mood: Laughter Yoga, unsurprisingly, can make a huge impact on your mood, both immediately and in the long term. Actively cultivating a laughter response brings happiness into your life. After all, how can you focus on the negative when you’re laughing so hard your stomach muscles hurt? When you’re happy, you also experience lower levels of the common stress hormone cortisol.
- New Friendships: By helping you connect more quickly and deeply with those around you, laughing yoga can lead to feelings of increased positivity and quality of life in people of all ages. Even introverts will find this unique way of getting to know people creates unexpected connections between practitioners.
- Reduced Stress: Studies have found that laughing yoga can help reduce stress for people in high-stress lifestyle situations. A study on patients undergoing chemotherapy, for example, found that those who participated in laughing yoga sessions before chemotherapy had significantly lower stress levels than their counterparts who did not. Moreover, the study patients’ practice of laughing yoga had the added benefit of creating a more positive environment in the hospital with no harmful side effects. Dr. Kataria, the brains behind the Laughter Yoga movement, claims you can experience as much as a 28 percent drop in cortisol through this practice.
- Stronger Immune System: Laughing makes you happy and happiness can lead to a range of positive impacts on your body. For example, a positive mood may keep your immune system strong. In fact, research shows that happy people are almost three times less likely to catch a cold. Other studies found that happiness can help increase your antibody response to vaccines, making them more effective.
- Greater Mobility for People With Certain Diseases: Research also shows that laughing yoga can enhance the mobility of people living with certain diseases. A 2013 study, for example, found that people with Parkinson’s disease who participated in laughing yoga sessions demonstrated a marked improvement in motor function, balance, and flexibility compared to the control group.
- Improved Heart Rate Variability: Heart rate variability (HRV) is an essential part of your autonomic nervous system. It regulates your heart rate and blood pressure, without any conscious effort, and responds to both stress and relaxation. If you get sick, reduced HRV can indicate your illness may get worse instead of better. Research shows that Laughter Yoga can help improve heart rate variability.
What Happens in a Laughing Yoga Session?
A typical laughing yoga session includes five parts: a warm-up, deep-breathing exercises, childlike playfulness activities, laughter exercises, and grounding activities. If you’re worried you can’t laugh on command, you’ll likely find that simulating laughter often leads to the real thing — especially in an environment designed to bring out your inner child. Here are more details on each of the five main parts:
- The Warm-Up: Most Laughter Yoga sessions begin with clapping and warm-up exercises. Clapping comes first, including full hand claps to help activate acupressure points in the hands that boost your energy levels. As the clapping takes on a rhythm, participants slowly add steps and then a simple chant that uses heavy exhalations to stimulate your diaphragm. Trainers may also throw in some dancing to help participants get into the spirit.
- Deep-Breathing Exercises: These don’t just happen at the beginning of each session. You’ll practice deep breathing throughout each laughing yoga session to help you relax and keep your lungs working.
- Childlike Playfulness Activities: These activities help participants achieve Laughter Yoga’s overall goal of unlocking their childlike joy and laughter. While these activities may feel strange at first — even childish — they can help lower your inhibitions and bring you into a more playful headspace.
- Laughter Exercises: Designed to make you laugh, these exercises sometimes move participants from simulated laughter to the real thing and sometimes put them in unexpected situations that illicit genuine laughter. Laughter exercises include three sub-categories:
- Yoga-Based Exercises – The root of Laughter Yoga’s name, these exercises feature regular yoga postures,with a little (or a lot of) laughter thrown in.
- Playful Exercises – Trainers use these exercises to help you shed your shyness and move from simulated laughter to unconditional laughter.
- Value-Based Exercises – Following some principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, these exercises help you reprogram your reaction to different situations using laughter.
- Grounding Activities: The heightened emotions of a laughing yoga session, while fun, can lead to an emotional crash afterwards. That’s why most sessions include some type of grounding activity at the end. This can take the form of a guided meditation or group humming activity. The goal is to calm your mind and body before you leave the session.
How to Try It
You can practice Laughter Yoga solo to get a feel for the exercises. However, for the best results, you’ll want to find a laughing yoga class near you or start one yourself with friends. After all, laughter is the best medicine. To find a laughing yoga event in your area, check out the trainings list on the Laughter Yoga University site. You can also research local laughter clubs. With more than 1,600 laughter clubs currently operating, chances are good there’s one in a community near you.