Looking for a healthy pick-me-up? "Laughter Yoga" is a relatively new concept that still emphasizes breathing like traditional yoga, but encourages laughter as exercise for the belly, diaphragm, lungs, and perhaps most importantly, the mind. Laughing Yoga proves true the old maxim - laughter really is the best medicine! As simple and profound as traditional yoga breathing, laughing yoga helps the practitioner feel happy and healthy. Laughing yoga encourages healthy breathing, but its benefits reach far beyond the lungs. Laughing yoga practitioners profess general health improvements such as lower frequencies of respiratory infections like colds and the flu, but they also claim to experience a genuine mood-lifting effect. It's truly incredible how just a bit of laughter can improve your whole day!
Originally launched by a physician in Mumbai, India in 1995, laughing yoga is based upon the scientific principle that the human body cannot differentiate between "fake" laughter and "real" laughter, so no matter how you slice it, the body will reap the same physiological and psychological benefits. Whether "real" or "fake," laughter lowers the levels of stress hormones in the blood stream. Laughing fosters hormone levels that literally "put us in a good mood." Many laughter yoga devotees claim to have used these exercises to overcome depression, or at least to laugh away troubles after a long, stressful day.
A session of laughing yoga requires you to leave your shyness at the door, but if you have trouble doing so, your "laughter leader" will help you shed your inhibitions. Exercise warm ups include lots of clapping, eye-contact with your fellow practitioners, rhythm and movement, and simple chants to promote heavy exhalations from the belly, invoking classic yoga diaphragmatic breathing. Most of all, warm-up exercises are designed to ease the class into a silly mood. Before you know it, you'll find yourself laughing. Sometimes your laughter leader will lead you through "gibberish" exercises, encouraging everyone to babble like babies. Sound silly? Of course it does! That's what makes it so effective at promoting laughter and feelings of child-like playfulness.