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Laugh Your Heart Out: The Joy and Science of Laughter Yoga

We all know that it feels good to laugh, but did you know that 100-200 laughs a day can have the same cardiovascular benefits as 10 minutes on a rowing machine?

Simply put: laughing not only feels good for your body, it IS good for your body. A hearty laugh can burn calories, tone muscles, reduce stress, blood sugar levels and food cravings, and increase endorphins, blood flow, and pain tolerance. Not convinced? Think about your favourite joke, and observe how you feel. Good, right?

In addition to these positive physiological effects, a good guffaw can also help us rethink a negative perspective, improving our outlook and creating positive changes in our relationships. And, best of all, laughter is the surest path to the present moment: when we laugh there is no time but now, and now is good.

While it may be comforting to learn those guilty-pleasure flicks are actually doing us good (seriously: I’m a 30 year old woman, so why do I enjoy the man-boy humour of Seth Rogen so much?), sitting in front of the TV is not the only way to get those laugh engines roaring.

Founded in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria, a Mumbai-based MD, Laughter Yoga combines laughter with yogic breathing and exercise to relax and delight. Motivated by the results of his research on the psychological and physiological benefits of laughter, the so-called Guru of Giggling started the first 5-person laughter club in a Mumbai park. 13 years later, the movement has spread, inspiring thousands of laughter clubs across the globe, and garnering lots of international media attention

I was first introduced to this practice by Angela Toccalino, a yogi whose bright ever-present smile and generosity of spirit make her the perfect poster-girl for the benefits of daily laughter.

Although it is certainly easier to laugh with others, learning to laugh at ourselves is an important stress survival skill, and can help us develop goodwill and generosity. The following sequence can be incorporated into your personal practice, or shared with friends.

To start your laughter practice, try using this vowel toning technique to resonate the cakras, and allow your laughter its deepest expression.

Start at the root cakra with the lowest tone you can make. Frequencies will vary between individuals, but the key is to increase your tone as you move up the cakras. Make note of any difficulties as you pass: wavering or faltering may signal an imbalanced cakra, and indicate the need for more work in this area.

Here are the sounds:

1. Root - Ooo (as in ‘you’)
2. Sacral - Oh (as in ‘go’)
3. Solar plexus - Uh (as in ‘cup’)
4. Heart - Ah (as in ‘ma’)
5. Throat - Eh (as in ‘say’)
6. Third eye - I (as in ‘sit’)
7. Crown - Eee (as in ‘see’)

Once you’ve given your cakras a good toning, it’s time to start laughing. Think of a funny joke, or hilarious moment, but don’t worry if you have trouble summoning real laughter. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between genuine and contrived giggles, and that “office laugh” you use in the cubicle is as beneficial to body and spirit as a real guffaw. Just follow Dr. Kataria’s mantra and FAKE IT, FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT. Usually the very ridiculousness of this exercise is enough to inspire genuine chuckles, but if you’re still having trouble, try this laugh track to get you started: Laughter Yoga Canada .

It’s up to you whether you want to laugh for a set time, or just go until the moment passes. Either way, make sure to spend a little post-laugh time lying in savasana, observing the effects on body and mind, and relishing in the good times glow.

For more information on Laughter Yoga, try these links:

Laughter Yoga International

Benefits of Laughter Yoga with John Cleese

Additional sources:

The Stress Management and Health Benefits of Laughter:
The Laughing Cure
By Elizabeth Scott, M.S.,
Updated: April 22, 2008

Laughter Yoga Canada:

Laughter: The Best Medicine
by David Granirer

Laugh Yourself Skinny
By Don Oldenburg

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Comment by Johnathon Martin on March 19, 2009 at 11:56am
Interested in manifesting greater happiness, well-being & success?

Please sign up for a free Yoga and Happiness ecourse & teleclass at www.YogaandHappiness.

OM Namaste

Johnathon Martin
Comment by Cecille on March 3, 2009 at 10:59am
I agree with your post! I often find myself wanting to laugh my heart out every time I'm feeling stressed out or frustrated. It feels sooo good to laugh. I can't imagine life without laughter!
Comment by Devon on March 3, 2009 at 10:32am
Thanks, Marina!
Comment by Marina on March 2, 2009 at 11:45pm
Great post Devon. Now I know why I love to laugh!
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