What Is Laughter Yoga?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

Also known as Laughter with No Reason or Hasyayoga, Laughter Yoga is an exercise routine designed to lower stress and foster a positive attitude while obtaining the benefits of traditional yoga. The practice involves using self-triggered laughter, or laughter that was not necessarily caused by humor, in conjunction with yoga breathing. Laughter Yoga therapy has become a popular way to treat prison inmates, people with disabilities, and many other persons around the world.

Laughter Yoga began in Mumbai, India.
Laughter Yoga began in Mumbai, India.

To engage in Laughter Yoga, one must typically participate with a Laughter Yoga group. The group may be an already existing one, or one that the participant wishes to create in his or her area. The group leader will introduce several yogic exercises to be completed in conjunction with laughter. Participants are expected to accept that they require no reason to laugh, and should simply begin laughing together, as the effect tends to be contagious once it has begun. Specific clapping, vocal sounds, hand placements, and other gestures are a part of a typical Hasyayoga session.

Laughter yoga aims to relieve stress through group laughter.
Laughter yoga aims to relieve stress through group laughter.

This yoga practice began in 1995. It was created by Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, India, and his wife, yoga teacher Madhuri Kataria. The two developed the concept around the idea that the body cannot distinguish between self-induced physical laughter and laughter that is triggered by humor. The benefits of either laughter, therefore, remain the same. Since yoga has already been established as a useful stress reduction tool, adding laughter, another known stress reducer, seemed to make the practice of yoga even more beneficial to those who practice it.

Laughter Yoga uses yoga breathing mixed with purposeful laughter.
Laughter Yoga uses yoga breathing mixed with purposeful laughter.

In addition to stress relief, Laughter Yoga has been shown to be helpful in treating or combating many other ailments as well. Cancer patients who engage in Laughter with No Reason have reported better functioning immune systems as well as longer survivor rates than patients who do not laugh regularly. Schools that use this type of yoga at the beginning of the day often note a more positive and productive environment, and it has also been used to treat conditions such as arthritis and asthma.

Laughter therapy has become a popular way to treat people around the world.
Laughter therapy has become a popular way to treat people around the world.

Laughter yoga benefits also include the increase of overall happiness and feelings of well-being. Many people can call to mind how they feel after a hearty laugh. It allows people to experience this release often, which allows them to abandon worry to an extent, and enjoy their lives more fully. Seniors who experience mental decline and the reduction or absence of humor may find that the practice allows them to continue laughing well into their old age, as well as to experience the other benefits of yoga as well.

Laughter yoga has become a popular way to treat prison inmates.
Laughter yoga has become a popular way to treat prison inmates.
Laughter yoga has been used to treat asthma.
Laughter yoga has been used to treat asthma.
Laughter yoga may help reduce chronic pain.
Laughter yoga may help reduce chronic pain.
Laughter Yoga is an exercise designed to lower stress and foster a positive attitude while obtaining the benefits of traditional yoga.
Laughter Yoga is an exercise designed to lower stress and foster a positive attitude while obtaining the benefits of traditional yoga.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments

SarahG

@Indigowater - I watched a laughter yoga youtube video and it looked pretty strange. How silly did you feel fake-laughing?

I guess like anything else, you have to get used to it to reap the benefits. I'm not sure I could get into it but I'd like to try it once with my best friend who has the kind of contagious laugh that makes me laugh.

indigowater

I have enjoyed yoga for many years but when I heard about a laughter yoga class on the beach, I had to try it. The class was filled with people of all ages who were there for various reasons, but mostly to begin their day releasing tension.

I was told that the yogic breathing and forced laughter helps increase pain tolerance while boosting the body's production of infection-fighting antibodies. This is good news for someone dealing with a chronic disease who might be too worn down to work out more strenuously.

Laughter yoga also lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system and reduces stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline). As for myself, it definitely raised my feel-good endorphins to start the day with a real feeling of joy and and contentment.

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