Laughter Yoga / Laughing Yoga
Laughter for the Healing Heart
A laughter therapy course by Lynn Shaw, author and laugh therapist. If you are
experiencing a health or emotional low, laughter exercises can be an adjunct to a
healthy outlook. Discover how laughter can help reduce symptoms of allergies,
abdominal pain and digestive problems -- to name a few. And help you manage anger
and fear. For those dealing with physical or emotional distress, finding laughter in daily
life can profoundly enhance healing and the quality of life!
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Laughter Yoga: Laughter and Breath as a Tool for Health and Happiness
By Lynn Shaw, Laughter Therapist
When we see the word "laughter" in print, something propels us to check it out. Attach yoga and we have an intriguing possibility. This article will address the relatively new awareness regarding an old concept: Laughter Yoga.
History of Laughter Yoga
My introduction to laughter yoga and laughter clubs began over a decade ago when I began studying therapeutic laughter. As a licensed mental health professional, I was drawn to the concept of utilizing laughter, not humor, in a wellness and clinical setting. After immersing myself into the study and application of laughter as therapy, I was hooked. I was seeing the benefits of laughing with stress, laughing with pain, laughing energetically. And then my studies drew me into the path of Steve Wilson, Ph.D. and Dr. Madan Kataria from India who is credited as the founder of Laughter Yoga.
Dr. Kataria is an enterprising and innovative physician who had been researching the benefits of humor and laughter. After being inspired by his findings, he decided to field-test the impact of laughter by going to a local park in Bombay, India and convinced four people to start a laughter club with him. Within a few days, over 50 people were involved. Initially using jokes and humor to keep the laughter generated, the jokes ended after two weeks.
Dr. Kataria observed that it usually took one person laughing to get the others laughing so he began to eliminate jokes and stories and focused on laughing. His wife, Madhuri Kataria, a yoga teacher, suggested gentle breathing and other yoga exercises be included. The new formula worked and the laughter yoga technique became the mechanism for developing a laughter club in India and now around the world.
Two years later, Dr. Steve Wilson, a psychologist and joyologist who had specialized in the power of humor in health and well-being, was invited to India and met with Dr. Kataria. The two collaborated to bring the laughter club concept to the USA. Steve founded World Laughter Tour, Inc. and began trainings initially utilizing the Laughter Yoga methods. Over time, he revised some of the techniques and created Laughter Clubs® in the USA incorporating lessons in the physiological and psychological benefits of laughing. Steve introduced Good-Hearted LivingTM
concepts which continue to be a source of inspiration taught within his model. While the two gurus of laughter clubs have continued their work separately, both have contributed hugely to the growth of laughter clubs worldwide with over 7,000 laughter clubs being held and people flocking to the trainings to continue the inspired efforts.
What is Laughter Yoga?
As more people have become trained by Dr. Kataria in
the influence of his technique has led to a question as to whether laughter yoga is the same as a Laughter Club. It depends. According to Jeffrey Briar, who has trained with Dr. Kataria and Dr. Wilson, he defines laughter yoga as "an evolution of body-mind medicine that combines simple
and gentle yoga breathing to enhance health and happiness."
The technique becomes the practice within a laughter club. Some trainers use the term, Laughter Yoga, to advertise their classes; others use Laughter Club. What is of value is that no matter which class you attend by name, you will recognize the opening exercise which usually starts out as Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha with each word accompanied by rhythmic clapping.
Laughter Yoga, according to Dr. Kataria, is a "physically-oriented technique that uses a perfect blend of playful, empowering and otherwise 'tension releasing' simple laughter exercises, interspersed with gentle breathing and stretching exercises, rhythmic clapping and chanting of Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha in unison. In
you use laughter as a tool, not an emotion." Laughter Yoga lasts between 20 to 30 minutes and is adapted to meet the needs and abilities of the group participating. Going beyond the 30 minutes may be "too much of a good thing." Participants are encouraged to practice Laughter Yoga with a trained leader. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Kataria offer certification trainings.
Connecting Laughter to Yoga
In Sebastien Gendry's terrific article The Yoga Connection
, Mr. Gendry writes, "Yoga teaches that the mind and body are mirror one to another and that the breath is the link between the two. In Laughter Yoga, 'laughter' is used as a form of breath work and an excuse to breathe deeper into the abdomen." He states that the "majority of types and forms of the laughter exercises we practice are directly connected in one way or the other with the principles and maxims of yoga - known for ages as Hasya Yoga (the branch of yoga dealing with laughter)." Mr. Gendry continues his teaching on Laughter Yoga through The American School of Laughter Yoga and was the first American to train as a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher with Dr. Madan Kataria.
Rick Hauser is the founder of
Laughter Yoga Chicago
and is a certified Laughter Yoga Instructor / Trainer & Leader. He writes "Laughter Yoga involves laughing for no reason, through various laughter exercises, with yoga breathing. It fills your lungs and body with oxygen, deep-clears your breathing passages, and exercises your lungs."
Laughter Yoga does not rely upon your mind and easily helps you distance from fears, sadness, worries and self-defined limitations. The premise of Laughter Yoga is the philosophy that acting happiness
and simulated laughter
actually stimulates laughter
. The findings seem to point towards connecting laughter to yoga is like synergetic breathing -- a blend of benefits from practicing Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha
Finding Laughter Clubs
Both Dr. Wilson's organization,
World Laughter Tour
Inc., and Dr. Kataria's organization,
emphasize that the club meetings are non-political, non-religious, non-exploitive, non-competitive, non-perfectionistic, and non-threatening. Participants are encouraged to participate at their physical level and to embrace laughing for health, happiness, well-being and peace. Locating a laughter club near you can be found through www.laughterclubs.org or www.laughteryoga.org.
As you seek well-being and consider Laughter Yoga, know that the benefits of laughing continue to be supported by extensive research through mind/body connection work. I am amazed at the depth of understanding the past decade has brought to this fun, remarkable, and simple process. Laughing daily can provide community building experiences for you, your family, friends, and co-workers. Just start with Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha
Copyright © 2007 Lynn Shaw. All rights reserved. If you are interested in publishing this article, please email .
Lynn Shaw, LCSW, CLL, is a life coach, speaker, author, and certified laughter leader. Founder of Energizing Life, Inc., her purpose is to energize others to create renewal for everyday vitality. Learn more about Lynn and her online laughter course
Laughter for the Healing Heart