When is the last time you had a good, belly laugh? You know the kind that makes you cry, sometimes lose your breath, and gives your abs a little workout? Well, turns out those kinds of deep in the gut laughs actually do have many positive benefits not only to your physical body but also your emotional body.
One of the most inspirational stories I have heard that supports the positive effects of laughter is the story of Norman Cousins. In his book, Anatomy of an Illness, he details his journey with a diagnosed fatal disease. Doctors gave him a bleak few months to live, which he refused to accept. He repeatedly watched funny movies, the kind that made him not only chuckle but deep belly laugh. Just to note, he lived 26 years past his diagnosis. Check out his story, he is a fascinating study.Now let me share a bit about my journey into Laughter Yoga.
Roll the clock back just a little to 2007. I am watching a very popular talk show and the host has heard about this thing called Laughter Yoga. She decides to send one of her staff members to check it out, and the clip of his experience was hysterical. This group of people was doing structured laughter techniques combined with deep yogic breathing and absolutely having a blast. It was also entertaining, as the laughter techniques included the participants jumping around the room acting like chickens, monkeys, and mad scientists among other interesting yet very fun filled exercises. The laughter was obviously very contagious. As we all know, laughter can infect us when we hear some honest to goodness joyful giggling.
The kicker that got me exclaiming, “I have to do that!!” is when they said that this style of laughter and breathing was aerobic!!!! WHAT???!!!! I can laugh and get aerobic benefits? I’m in at this point. So, I did some research to find out more about this amazing discovery. After finding a class not too far away that offered training to lead Laughter Yoga classes, I enrolled and was on my way.
The founder of Laughter Yoga, Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician in Mumbai, India was researching the effects of laughter on the physical body. After coming across overwhelming evidence supporting the positive effects, he decided to find out for himself by telling jokes with a small group of people each morning. After realizing that there can often be sensitivities with jokes and humor, Dr Kataria focused on laughing for no reason. This led to the structured laughter exercises that may start off with faked laughter and silliness but quickly escalate into genuine from the belly joyful laughter. He found that the body did not distinguish between fake and real laughter; therefore, our bodies reap the benefits either way. His wife Madhuri added yogic breathing techniques in between the laughter which birthed the fabulous experience that is Laughter Yoga.
I always knew that I loved to laugh, but I had no idea of all the positive benefits of laughter this class would teach.Many medical professionals have studied the healing effects of laughter. Here are just a few of the results to get you started on your discovery of laughter positivity:
Reduces blood pressure and heart rate Relaxes the muscles
Aerobic exercise–a good belly laugh is equivalent to “internal jogging” Helps move nutrients and oxygen to body tissues Boosts serotonin–a natural anti-depressant Decreases serum cortisol–the harmful stress hormone
Conditions ab muscles Releases endorphins–natural painkillers Brings in positive emotions that can enhance conventional treatments and it is just a lot of fun!!!
As of now there are thousands of Laughter Yoga groups in over 100 countries around the world. There are many many more, hit up your search engine!! You can find out more information at www.laughteryoga.org
Notice things daily that are joyful Laugh at every opportunity and Infuse life with lots of Love and Laughter!!! Namaste
Marquetta Newell, M.Sc.
Originally from Sand Mountain, AL, Marquetta currently lives in Tupelo, MS. She is certified in Personal Reiki and Laughter Yoga. As a Healing Energy Practitioner and Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, Marquetta has conducted workshops in both areas, and her classes have been featured on local television.
Image: Laughing budai of thailand, Wikimedia Commons