There are plenty of unusual workout routines available, but undoubtedly one of the strangest to emerge in recent years is Laughter Yoga. While everybody has heard of Yoga classes, the idea of consciously laughing during one of these classes might seem a little out of the norm. However, there are plenty of exercise enthusiasts across the planet who swear by this new trend. With growing interest in this quirky practice, here’s everything you need to know about Laughter Yoga.
Laughter Yoga is more than just a few giggles — it’s derived from several exercises and techniques aimed at helping improve your physical and mental health. Dr. Madan Kataria founded Laughter Yoga in Mumbai, India, in 1995. Despite its young age, Laughter Yoga has taken off, with thousands of studios dotted across the world, with hundreds located in the US.
Laughter Yoga started with Dr. Kataria telling jokes to crowds of people in a local park. He noticed that regardless of whether somebody found something funny, laughter was contagious, and the group would laugh just because everybody else was.
Dr. Kataria’s research continued, and he discovered there are several physical and mental health benefits to sustained laughter. As a result, Dr. Kataria invented a series of breathing techniques based around laughing, and Laughter Yoga was born.
Your Typical Laughter Yoga Class
When you picture Yoga, you likely picture poses like downward-facing dog being performed to serene music. Laughter Yoga is very different from your traditional forms of Yoga. Like most Yoga sessions, Laughter Yoga lasts for between half an hour and an hour with a class of around 20 people. However, this is where most similarities stop.
Usually, during a warm-up, you’ll do a few stretches and breathing exercises to prepare your body for the upcoming sequences. After the initial warm-up, the rest of the class consists of different flows, for example, clapping, breathing, and laughing. Initially, the laughter will be forced for most participants. Over time, most members of the class will begin to relax and find the whole experience hilarious, and the laughter will spread from person to person.
One of the essential elements of Laughter Yoga is taking deep breaths between each laugh. These deep breaths are vital because they slow your heart rate, meaning your body won’t have to take in extra oxygen while laughing. This breathing exercise produces the Laughter Yoga’s calming effect, which is where many of its mental health benefits originate.
Towards the end of the class, there’s usually a laughter meditation period. During this period, the class all lie or sit on the floor and laugh to themselves sporadically over time, while following Dr. Kataria’s breathing exercises. The session then concludes with a cool down and some reflection time.
The Benefits of Laughter Yoga
Dr. Kataria claims that Laughter Yoga is an exceptional healing tool for the mind, body, and soul. The effect laughter has on the brain is well documented. Laughter releases endorphins and serotonin, which improve your mood and relieve stress and depression.
Laughter also has a serious effect on the body. Laughter Yoga will generally increase your lung capacity, and a giggle is also great for your digestive system. Psychologist William Fry of Stanford University performed a study that suggests laughter is good for the heart and increases circulation. His research also pointed out that it doesn’t seem to matter whether the laughter is real or fake; the physical health benefits are the same.
On his website, Dr. Kataria states that Laughter Yoga is also excellent for curing a number of other ailments. Laughter Yoga is said to be a natural painkiller, and relieves symptoms of fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetes, and even cancer. However, none of these benefits are proven by science.
One of the best things about Laughter Yoga is it’s suitable for all age groups, as it requires very little movement or flexibility. As a result, young and old can reap the benefits of Laughter Yoga.
Overall, regardless of whether Laughter Yoga helps cure any specific illness, it’s undoubtedly good fun, and you’re sure to leave any class with a smile on your face.
Where Can I Try Laughter Yoga?
There are hundreds of Laughter Yoga classes scattered across the US in major cities like New York, Atlanta, and Orlando. One of the hotspots for Laughter Yoga is Los Angeles. Always quick to pick up on the latest exercise trends, there are several studios offering classes across the city, including Laughing Frog Yoga in West LA and The Laughter Yoga Institute in Laguna Beach.
If you live out of the way and don’t feel like lugging your stuff to your first class, make sure to drop your belongings off at a Los Angeles luggage storage spot for heading to one of these studios. Many classes in Los Angeles offer slightly different Laughter Yoga styles, so don’t be surprised if each session you attend has alternative flows and techniques.