Have you ever heard of laughter yoga? I had not yet heard of this increasingly popular trend, but I love yoga and love to laugh, so I thought I would research it (and soon try it out) to see if it’s a positive addition to my own and my clients’ self care. I was intrigued to discover that this type of yoga (wherein the participants ‘self-trigger’ laughter during practice) involves a physical type of laughter that is not necessarily related to humor or comedy. What? How could you make that happen, and what motivates you to continue laughing without an object to promote it? I learned that the concept and exercise were developed by the Indian guru Jiten Kohi and physician Madan Kataria, respectively, and that Kataria has written a book about the subject entitled Laugh for No Reason.
The health benefits of yoga are no secret and the meditation and peace that it brings through community and practice are unique rewards of this ancient tradition. Along the same vein, laughter has proven to be healthy in many ways. In this sort of yoga, laughter is initiated in a group setting with engaged eye contact, a sort of childlike playfulness, and ‘laughter exercises’. Sources say that fake laughter has no choice but to become real. The reason behind it is that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter, and so it causes your mind (which can tell the difference….up to a certain point) to become one with the body. This brings to mind the mindfulness and body-centered exercises I am currently using in the therapy group I run, and solidifies the notion that body and mind are one. The deep breathing associated with yoga is increased and intensified with laughter yoga and facilitates a breathing rhythm that is unique to this practice. In a chicken-or-egg conundrum, you tend to forget why you started laughing or which practice you started first, and the benefits of laughing impact us all both physically and psychologically. Sometimes, if you are like me and can tend to focus on negative things sometimes, it may make a whole lot of sense to ‘force’ yourself to laugh and then reap the rewards that may have seemed so far-fetched and out of reach. The laughter – and the positivity it brings – becomes contagious and more natural. Practice makes perfect!
So who does this, and where? I was amazed to find a ‘global movement for health, joy and peace’ at www.laughteryoga.org, where groups bring laughter to the workplace, act in shows that laugh all the way through, and go on spiritual retreats all in the name of laughter yoga –all around the world! More locally, I found Denver Laughs, where I learned that there are more than 125 Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders in the Denver area! This organization describes laughter yoga as ‘a body-mind combination of simple laughter exercises, deep breathing and relaxation techniques from Hatha yoga to enhance health and happiness.” It states that it is a grassroots movement that has more than 600,000 members worldwide. There are clubs in every part of Denver and the metro area that do plays, ‘happy hours’ and other laughingly fun events. There is even a Denver laughter yoga meet-up group!
On my search I also found the American School of Laughter Yoga where you can become a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader or do professional development classes. In light of all of the dreary and dismal news reports (and yes, I know many of my blogs are about these types of subjects), I am excited to find this happy-to-laugh movement that combines mental health and physical health in an effort to promote peace and wellness. We all could laugh a bit more, don’t you think?