What is Laughter Yoga?
Laughter Yoga is a group exercise routine, which combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (Pranayama).
Laughter is initially simulated as a physical exercise while maintaining eye contact with others in the group and promoting childlike playfulness. In most cases, this soon leads to real and contagious laughter. Anyone can laugh without relying on humor, jokes or comedy, but not all of us have the chance to enjoy the joy and catharsis of deep belly laughter on a regular basis. And certainly, most of us can relate to having stresses in our lives that may benefit from such a practice. Laughter Yoga takes away the idea of just leaving laughter “to chance,” and allows participants to reap the wonderful benefits of laughter whenever they choose or feel they could use it. Science has proved that the body cannot differentiate between simulated and real laughter, and therefore the physiological and psychological benefits are present and engaged in both states. Laughter Yoga is the only technique that allows adults to achieve sustained hearty laughter without involving cognitive thought. It bypasses the intellectual systems that normally acts as a brake on natural laughter.
Laughter Yoga was founded by medical Dr. Madan Kataria in Mumbai, India in 1995, while he was researching the scientific health benefits of laughter and writing a medical article titled Laughter is the Best Medicine. While he began with just 5 people in a park, there are now literally thousands of practicing laughter yoga groups in more than 70 countries around the world.
⇨ CNN Report: Laughter Yoga
Why is it called Laughter Yoga?
The word “Yoga” arises from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’ which means to get hold of, integrate and harmonize. It means getting hold of our lives, integrating all aspects of life, harmonizing our bodies with our minds, spirits and society. There are many paths of Yoga. For example Hatha Yoga is concerned with balancing through gentle movements and body postures or Asanas. Karma Yoga deals with actions of selfless service, kindness, and generosity (Mother Theresa was a famous Karma Yogi). Ashtanga Yoga (commonly called Power Yoga) is a more physically demanding yoga best suited for an athlete or someone looking to really push their body (and so on). The primary reason Dr. Kataria named this technique “Laughter Yoga” was because he incorporated Pranayama, the ancient science of yogic breathing into laughter exercises. This has a powerful and immediate effect on our physiology and has been used for more than four thousand years to influence the body, mind and emotions.
The very essence of our life is breathing. Due to stress and negative emotions, our breathing becomes irregular and shallow, thus affecting the flow of Prana throughour body. From a medical point of view, the most important component of breath is oxygen. Dr. Otto Warburg, President, Institute of Cell Physiology and Nobel Prize Winner (Dr.Warburg is the only person ever to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine twice and benominated for a third), said about the importance of oxygen: “Deep breathing techniques increase oxygen to the cells and are the most important factors in living a disease-free and energetic life. When cells get enough oxygen, cancer will not and cannot occur.” The primary characteristic of yogic breathing (Pranayama) is that exhalation be longer than inhalation, thus ridding the lungs of residual air which is then replaced by fresh air containing a higher level of oxygen. A normal inhalation fills just 25% (tidal volume) of our total lung capacity. The remaining 75% (residual volume) remains filled with old stale air. Respiration becomes even shallower when compounded by stress. To keep our lungs healthy and provide enough oxygen for our bodies to perform at peak levels, we need to take deeper breaths and flush the stale air from our lungs. (Laughter Yoga International)
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*To find out more about Laughter Yoga around the world, visit www.laughteryoga.org.