What is Laugher Yoga
Laughing yoga, also known as laughter yoga, involves a series of movement and breathing exercises to promote deliberate laughter.
It’s used as a remedy for physical, psychological, and spiritual ailments, as advocates believe that intentional (simulated) laughter can provide benefits equal to those of spontaneous laughter (e.g., laughing at a joke).
Though laughing therapy has been used for decades, laughing yoga was discovered by Dr. Madan Kataria, a family physician in Mumbai, India, in 1995.
Dr. Kataria claims that laughing yoga will help lift your mood, reduce stress, strengthen your immune system, increase energy levels, improve your quality of life, and help you better manage hardship.
He believes that learning to laugh on cue can help you deal with stressful situations by promoting optimism and positivity. Since you cannot always rely on external influences to make you laugh, learning to laugh on your own can be a valuable tool.
Along with this, laughter yoga is believed to help you better manage stress through controlled breathing. This allows for greater uptake of oxygen, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, your body’s natural relaxation system.
As adults become busy with life, activities that promote laughter can go to the wayside. As a result, laughing yoga was designed to teach people how to laugh on cue rather than relying on people or things to bring them joy.
Does laughter yoga work?
You’ve probably noticed that laughing can provide immediate benefits, such as improved mood.
However, more attention is being placed on the long-term benefits of regular, daily laughing.
First, laughing releases endorphins and “happy” hormones like dopamine and serotonin.
Plus, it suppresses stress-hormones like cortisol. These effects are linked to a better mood, reduced pain, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and lower stress levels and rates of depression.
What’s more, laughing with other people can increase social connectedness and bonding, as well as strengthen relationships. It’s also linked to feelings of security and safety, allowing a person to feel more relaxed.
Many researchers believe that the body cannot distinguish between fake (simulated) or real (spontaneous) laughter, meaning you can benefit by simply forcing yourself to laugh.
A 2019 review found simulated laughter lowered depression rates and improved mood. The authors stated that laughter exercises require little cognition and don’t rely on subjective humour, meaning most people can easily participate.
Other studies have shown that laughing yoga may help temporarily reduce cortisol levels and stress, improve mood and energy levels, and induce a more positive mindset. In fact, it may be as effective as aerobic exercise at reducing self-reported stress.
The bottom line
Laughter yoga is growing in popularity as a fun way to laugh and take yourself less seriously.
A typical class involves various movements, improv, and breathing techniques to take your mind away from the daily stressors of life and be more present. Collectively, these practices may help lower your stress levels through deliberate and real laughter.
All in all, laughing yoga is a great way to let loose, have fun, and learn the joy of laughing again.
Meet The Teacher
Meg "MegO" O'Toole is a NYC Public School Educator and a certified Yoga Instructor. She discovered Laughter Yoga in 2014 and began training with Dr. Madan Kataria in 2021.
She has led Laughter Yoga in a variety of spaces including schools, conferences, and festivals. Classes have been held both online and in person, indoors and outdoors for the last three years. MegO is passionate about cultivating joy in community with others through this incredibly healing practice!