Laughter Yoga uses simple playful exercises to stimulate laughter. Here’s a Youtube video.
It was started in India by medical doctor Madan Kataria and his wife, yoga teacher Madhuri Kataria. It doesn’t rely on jokes, comedy or humour – you start off ‘acting as if’, and this often becomes genuine pretty quickly. It’s a tried and tested way to enable anyone to enjoy the benefits of laughing – even if you aren’t in a good mood to start off with!
There are many benefits from laughing and research suggests it can be really good for our physical and mental health. Also it builds community and friendship and can be pleasantly cathartic. Perhaps most importantly though: it is deliciously enjoyable.
Sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques which include stretching, chanting, clapping and body movement. These help to loosen us up and encourage feelings of childlike playfulness. Breathing exercises (the yoga part) are used to prepare the lungs for laughter (and later to offer a bit of pacing once the laughter has taken off!). We then use a range of ‘laughter exercises’ to stimulate laughter. This doesn’t have to be ‘genuine’ – indeed we begin by faking laughter. Usually, however, one thing leads to another and it isn’t long before the laughter becomes contagious, prolonged, hearty, and, yes … really fun and enjoyable. We fake it to make it! And even just faking it feels good- it helps to oxygenate our lungs and open up our hearts.
Laughter yoga is accessible to everyone (provided you don’t have a serious medical condition – contact us if you want more info on this). You can be young or old, don’t have to be mobile or flexible, or a ‘good’ laugher ….or even feel happy (indeed it can help with depression). And here is one of many videos on youtube that show you what it all can lead to (shows a group lying on the floor laughing helplessly together – NB you can also do the exercises seated if that’s more comfortable for you).