Some excerpts and articles from LaughterYoga.org
Mission - World Peace
The goal of Laughter Yoga is to bring good health, joy and world peace through Laughter. Laughter is universal with no language and cultural barriers. Laughter Yoga Clubs are fast growing into a worldwide community of like-minded people who believe in unconditional Love, Laughter and Fellowship. Every first Sunday of May is celebrated as World Laughter Day. In the year 2000, nearly 10,000 people laughed together in Copenhagen, Denmark to set a Guinness Book Record.
Life Changing Experience
Throughout India, thousands of Laughter Yoga Clubs meet every morning in public parks. Most Laughter Club members proudly report that they have not missed a day in five years or more. They say it makes them happy, healthy and energized - effecting a transformation in their lives. The Laughter Yoga session each day, results in positive energy that makes it easy to cope with stress of daily life and saves them from depression. In fact, the impact of laughter is so profound that many practitioners claim they no longer need anti-depressants. The sustained positive emotions keep them coming back for more.
Participants of Laughter Yoga report significant general health improvements. Many have felt a reduction in the frequency of respiratory infections like common cold and flu, and some others reported overcoming depression, relief/cure from chronic medical problems. With people's committed participation, Laughter Yoga has helped many people become healthier.
Clinical research on Laughter Yoga methods, conducted at the University of Graz in Austria; Bangalore, India; and in the United States has proved that Laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood. It fosters a positive and hopeful attitude. It is less likely for a person to succumb to stress and feelings of depression and helplessness, if one is able to laugh away the troubles.
How Laughter Yoga Reduces Mental Stress
Our Breathing is connected to the state of our Mind. It is apparent that the state of our Mind directly affects our Breathing. When in a Stressful, Emotional state or turmoil, the Breathing Pattern alters drastically. It becomes faster, shallow and irregular. Sometimes people even hold their breath under Stress, which leads to an accumulation of Carbon dioxide in the blood.
Mental Stress occurs due to the arousal of Sympathetic branch of our Autonomic Nervous System, which is very sensitive to Carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Laughter Yoga provides an excellent Cardiac workout, and triggers a Breathing Pattern that offers significant respiratory benefits. It lowers the amount of residual air in the lungs, replacing it with Oxygen-rich air. This reduces the level of Carbon dioxide in the lungs, and prevents the
Stress Arousal System.
The best way to reduce Mental Stress is to activate Parasympathetic System which is opposite of Sympathetic System. This can be done by changing the way we breathe. If we can learn to breathe from the Diaphragm, Mental Stress cannot occur, even if you have Stressful thoughts in your Mind. Your body simply will not react to Stressful thoughts.
The Diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscular partition between the Chest and the Abdomen. It plays an important role in the most vital function of Respiration. During Inhalation, the Diaphragm contracts, and pulls down, to make space for the lungs to expand, and during Exhalation, it relaxes and pushes the lungs to facilitate Exhalation.
By shifting the Breathing Pattern from shallow to deep Diaphragmatic Breathing, it stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is the cooling branch of the Autonomic Nervous System, and is the opposite of the Sympathetic Stress Arousal System. This scientific phenomenon coupled with the ancient Yogic wisdom of Breathing, makes this concept a unique exercise regime to loosen Stress and relieve Anxiety.
One of the prime objectives of Laughter Yoga is to learn how to move the Diaphragm, and shift the awareness of Breathing from the chest to the Deep Abdominal Breathing. With the movement of the Diaphragm, we can bring
our emotions under conscious control.
Laughter Yoga As Laughter Therapy
It has been scientifically proven that laughter is both preventive and therapeutic. People practicing Laughter Yoga regularly report amazing improvement in their health as well as a more positive mental attitude and higher energy levels. The first thing participants say is that they don’t fall sick very often; the frequency of normal cold and flu reduces or even disappears. There are daily reports of partial or total cure of most stress-related illnesses like hypertension, heart disease, depression, asthma, arthritis, allergies, stiff muscles and more. While this sounds fantastic, it all makes perfect sense, as laughter is nature’s best cure for stress.
Most illnesses today are stress related and chronic stress attacks the immune system and makes us vulnerable to infections, virus attack and cancer. In fact, this is a major motive for people taking to Laughter Yoga. You can feel the difference from the very first session. You get energized; your mood changes and you feel great. With regular practice you can experience a big change in mental and physical health. Laughter Yoga practitioners are happier and healthier; they can cope with stress better, and have a positive outlook on life.
How Laughter Yoga Works As Laughter Therapy
The healing effects of Laughter Yoga come from following reasons. The immune system is the master key of health and if it weakens one is exposed to constant infection and sickness. Scientific research by Dr. Lee Berk from Loma Linda University, California proved that laughter strengthens the immune system by increasing the number of natural killer cells and increase in the antibodies. Dr. Kataria says, “Ever since I started the laughter clubs, I don't suffer from cough, cold or sore throat anymore.”
The disease process has two components according to Dr. Kataria – one is the organic disease itself; and the second is the mental component in the form of anxiety, fear and depression. Why people get therapeutic benefits from Laughter Yoga so quickly is because it removes the mental factor immediately and one finds an improvement in symptoms. Rest of the healing effects comes from increasing oxygen supply to the body cells, strengthening the immune system, increasing blood circulation and creating positive mental state.
Laughter Therapy For Reducing Stress
Stress and depression are two major components of ill health. Most health benefits people get are because they are able to manage physical, mental and emotional stress with Laughter Yoga exercises. Once the stress levels are down, the immune system becomes stronger automatically.
Laughter Yoga As An Exercise
As a medical practitioner for over 25 years, Dr. Kataria says that people often fall sick due to indiscriminate eating and lack of exercise. In this high-pressure, high tension modern world people have little or no time to exercise. Dr. William Fry, well-known research scientist from Stanford University scientifically proved that 10 minutes of healthy laughter is equal to 30 minutes on the rowing machine. Laughter is the best cardio workout. As an exercise it has similar benefits as compared to any other aerobic activities like jogging, dining swimming and cycling.
Laughter Yoga is ideally suitable for people who cannot walk; have no time to exercise like business professionals and those who are bedridden.
Laughter Therapy For Cancer Patients
The immune system plays an important role in the causation and prognosis of cancer. In fact, cancer is most likely to occur because of a weak immune system. Most of the natural treatments for cancer are focused on strengthening the immune system to stem the rapid growth of cancer cells. Laughter therapy increases the count of natural killer cells which is an important component of the immune system and helps to overcome and destroy cancer cells.
Laughter Therapy And Role Of Oxygen
Dr. Otto Warburg, German scientist and Nobel Laureate said that the main reason we fall sick is because there is lack of oxygen in the body cells. Since Laughter Yoga combines laughter exercises and breathing from yoga, it brings more oxygen to the body and brain. Good supply of oxygen is the key for maintaining good health as well as healing a variety of illnesses. It is also important for people suffering from cancer and chronic respiratory
diseases like bronchitis and others.
Laughter Therapy For Depression
Depression is the number one sickness in the world and millions of dollars are spent on producing antidepressant drugs especially in the west where people feel lonelier and isolated due to high divorce rate, faulty relationship patterns etc. Laughter Yoga is extremely therapeutic for depression as it helps to release certain neurotransmitters from the brain cells as well as help people to stay connected and share their feelings and emotions.
Laughter Therapy For Heart Disease And Blood Pressure
High blood pressure and heart diseases are increasing at an alarming rate because of tremendous stress. Dr. Michael Miller of Maryland University did some scientific study and proved that laughter improves blood circulation to the coronary arteries and also dilates the blood vessels to help reduce blood pressure. People coming to Laughter Yoga clubs found that their blood pressure came down considerably and they could reduce antihypertensive medication. This also helps to reduce the risk of a brain stroke. A scientific study in Bangalore, India confirmed that Laughter Yoga therapy reduces both systolic and as well as diastolic BP.
Laughter Therapy For Mental Health
A major causal factor of many illnesses is a person's inability to express their feelings and emotions. People are afraid of reactions and conflict. As a result they suppress and hold their emotions which ultimately affect the immune system adversely leading to a variety of sickness. Laughter Yoga is a cathartic exercise which helps people release their blocked emotions in a non-violent way and makes them emotionally balanced. Bangalore research indicates that Laughter Yoga also helps to increase positive emotions and decrease the negative ones thereby promoting a healthy life.
Laughter Therapy For Diabetes
Dr. Lee Berk’s recent study confirms that laughter therapy significantly helps to bring down blood sugar levels thereby controlling diabetes. A research study in Bhopal monitored some laughter club members suffering from diabetes and found that the laughter group had a better control of blood sugar than those doing other exercises.
Laughter Therapy For Chronic Illnesses
Since most people in laughter clubs in India are 50 and above, they are likely to suffer from several age related illnesses. We found that they benefited immensely from Laughter Yoga and the incidence of chronic illnesses like arthritis, chronic aches and pains, migraine headaches, allergies, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis was greatly reduced. It may not cure the disease but definitely helps in enhancing one’s ability to cope with and
maintain a positive attitude.
Laughter Yoga For Healing
Laughter is now being prescribed as the best medicine for wellness. Countless studies have validated the efficacy of laughter and its therapeutic power in dealing with physical, mental and emotional health. With enormous physiological and psychological benefits, it is the most powerful remedial tool that has the ability to dramatically change the perspective of life by quickly relieving stress and depression and elevating mood states. It also helps to get in touch with reality and control emotions and feelings under adverse situations. Besides healing the mind and mitigating emotional pain, laughter even alleviates physical pain due to injury and disease and helps in speedy recovery.
Laughter is most effectively used in Laughter Yoga, which is the fastest growing health and fitness exercise routine. Thousands of practitioners around the world have reported remarkable improvement in health conditions. Based on unconditional laughter, it does not rely on humor or comedy, which makes it the easiest and the simplest exercise to rejuvenate the body mind system.
Physiological healing power of Laughter Yoga
Weak immune system: The weakening of the immune system due to physical illness or mental stress and depression undermines health and leads to frequent infections and disease.
Regular practice of Laughter Yoga boosts the immune system. Laughter increases the natural killer cells that have the ability to destroy tumors and viruses. It increases disease-destroying antibodies and also increases the concentration of salivary immunoglobulin A, which defends against the entry of infectious organisms through the respiratory tract. Laughter Yoga basically brings balance to all the components of the immune system and heals the pain.
Oxygen: Oxygen is one of the primary catalysts for biological energy in the human body. Stress reduces breathing and starves the body of oxygen, promoting the spread of illness. Laughter Yoga flushes the lungs and fully oxygenates the blood and major organs leaving one bursting with energy and vitality and free from disease.
Research has also shown that cancer cells are destroyed in the presence of oxygen. In fact, many parasites and bacteria don't survive well in the presence of oxygen; therefore an increase in the oxygen levels with laughter exercises is a great way to combat certain killer diseases.
Pain: Laughter triggers the release of a natural opiate called endorphin into the bloodstream. This provides immediate pain relief typically lasting for two hours. It can relieve headaches, muscular and joint pain and is powerful enough that a number of practitioners have undergone surgery using laughter instead of anesthetics!
Diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart related problems, asthma and respiratory complications, arthritis, senile dementia and even cancer to some extent have also been largely affected by laughter.
Laughter chemistry: The impact of laughter is based on a wealth of healing biochemicals. One minute of laughter produces body chemicals which are immune boosting and generate a healthy chemistry. Some of these are brain-altering chemicals created by engaging in healthy laughter would actually carry a hefty price tag if one went out to purchase them. But, once again, one can create these chemicals at no cost by simply laughing.
Lymphatic system: Stress switches off the lymphatic system while laughter moves the lymph fluid around the body simply by the spasms during laughter. This helps clear out old, dead waste products from organs and tissues.
Psychological healing power of Laughter Yoga
According to Dr. Kataria, the reason for the rapid spread of Laughter Yoga is that it gives instant results and can be enjoyed right away. There is no special clothing; there are no difficult techniques or postures to learn. Anyone can join a laughter yoga session and experience the results within 30 minutes.
Stress messes with our mind, with side effects that include depression, feelings of intense fear, psychological distress, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain sweating, nausea, dizziness, hyperventilation and sensations of choking or smothering.
Laughter is nature’s counter to stress, and hearty laughter has surprising positive results the on the body. Stress increases blood pressure and heart rate, laughter reduces both and dilates blood vessels for better circulation.
The feeling of health and energy from laughter yoga is often compared to the ‘runner’s high'. It keeps people coming back to laugh again and again.
Emotional balance: Laughter Yoga makes it easier to cope with life and its challenges. It puts us intensely in themoment. The ability to fully live and experience the “now” is of utmost importance because it is the only moment where we can experience happiness.
Catharsis: Laughter makes us feel good because it defuses the most painful emotions by releasing them through the painless mechanism of catharsis. That release, in turn, prevents or stops conflicts, eases tension, and helps people to see one another's point of view better and heals all harbored hurt and resentment that can get detrimental to one’s emotional health. It invokes feelings of joyfulness and happiness. Laughter Yoga lifts the
spirits and provides new insights.
Circulation and mobility: Laughter Yoga boosts circulation and increases the net supply of oxygen to the body and the brain. The deep diaphragmatic breathing massages the mid body and provides a respite from the flexibility of various joints throughout your body. So it's a bit of physical exercise and healthful body movement as well.
Laughter Yoga is a good antidote to mental and physical illness. It has the ability to blow away pain and heal both the body and the mind.
Allergy and Asthma
Scientific studies have proved that respiratory allergies like asthma and bronchitis are caused not only by physical allergens but also by a negative state of mind.
We are subjected to constant (or chronic) stress that results in a wide variety of stress-related illness including respiratory allergies which affect the breathing pattern and can at times lead to severe condition of breathlessness.
Asthma and bronchitis are both common chronic lung conditions that makes breathing difficult when the airways react to certain triggers or inducers causing airways to tighten, swell and fill with mucus. The lungs get less air which can cause wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and trouble breathing.
Laughter Yoga has a profound positive impact on allergies, with many practitioners reporting complete disappearance of all symptoms of asthma, skin and other allergies. Though not an intervention for countering physical causes of allergies, laughter is a definite tool to remedy stress. It can help in reducing the risk factors by boosting the immune system, encouraging deep breathing and flushing the lungs of stale air and generating a feeling of wellness.
It is a new exercise routine that combines laughter with yogic breathing. It encourages deep diaphragmatic breathing which can have a positive effect on asthma. It also increases the number and activity level of natural killer cells, which attack virus-infected cells and keep allergies at bay.
“According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Hajime Kimata of Unitika Central Hospital, Japan, studied the effects of laughter on patients allergic to dust mites, cedar pollen and cat dander. Skin prick tests using a commercial allergen were performed on 26 patients before and after they viewed the Charlie Chaplin comedy Modern Times. During the same procedure, a control group watched a video featuring weather information.
The results showed that allergic reactions of comedy watchers were reduced for four hours after the screening. In contrast, there was no effect on allergic responses of weather watchers.”
Causal factors of asthma – how Laughter Yoga can help
Stress: Living in a constant worry cycle and faced with major stressors, one succumbs easily to the physical symptoms of stress, which can lead to asthmatic conditions and other allergic reactions. Laughter Yoga is an effective method to reduce stress. It improves the prognosis of the disease and helps in lowering the levels of stress-related poisons in the body. It has the ability to reduce or even clear allergic reactions.
Hearty extended laughter is the best exercise for those suffering from asthma and bronchitis. It improves lung capacity and oxygen levels in the blood. It also flushes the lungs, trengthens the diaphragm and promotes healthier diaphragmatic breathing.
Diaphragm Breathing: The usual prescription for asthmatic patients is chest physiotherapy to remove mucous (phlegm) from the respiratory passages. Blowing forcefully into an instrument and blowing balloons is one of the common exercises given to asthmatics. Laughter Yoga does the same job, more easily and at no cost.
Many people suffering from asthma and bronchitis who practice Laughter Yoga daily in laughter clubs report marked reductions in the frequency and severity of their attacks. In many cases their symptoms have disappeared completely within months of daily laughter sessions.
Immune System: By boosting the immune system, Laughter Yoga increases antibody levels thereby reducing the frequency of chest infections. It also tones up the mucous clearing system of the bronchial tubes.
Frequent belly laughter empties your lungs of more air than it takes in resulting in a cleansing effect similar to deep breathing. This can be especially beneficial for patients who are suffering from emphysema and other respiratory ailments.
Research has confirmed that negative emotions can trigger allergic skin reactions. Disorders like hay fever and eczema are regulated, in part, by hormones and neuropeptides released into the bloodstream in response to stress.
Laughter Yoga increases the level of positive hormones and neuropeptides in the bloodstream thereby reducing the risk of skin allergies. It helps to increase T cells (T lymphocytes) and the antibody IgA (immunoglobulin A), which fights upper respiratory tract infections.
Teen / Childhood Asthma
Teens with asthma tend to be more depressed and more likely to use drugs and alcohol. “This high frequency of depression in adolescents with asthma is most likely a consequence of a disease that impedes breathing, interferes with age-level activities, and complicates the adolescent process of developing a self-identity different from family," according to Bruce G. Bender, PhD, National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colorado.
Laughter exercises are ideally suited for young teens as it quickly helps to change the mood state by releasing endorphins, natural opiates that generate feelings of comfort and safety. Laughter Yoga helps one to cope with difficult situations and releases pent up emotions through the process of catharsis.
Though the most common cause of childhood asthma and respiratory allergies is genetic and physical, emotional stress caused by anxiety, anger or frustrations are also childhood asthma triggers. Children to day are faced with numerous stressors and pressures that can negatively alter the breathing pattern resulting in hyperventilation and rapid breathing that can further worsen an asthma attack.
Laughter Yoga is a powerful tool to remedy the immune system and reduce the negative triggers that bring on allergies. It focuses on all the aspects of well being – physical and mental. While the physiological healing power of laughter helps in recovery, the psychological takes care of the mental stress and depression that can reduce
It teaches one to breathe correctly using the diaphragm, thereby increasing the net supply of oxygen to the body and the brain and using the lungs to the fullest capacity. It is the best prescription to curb the attacks and is a great preventive.
Laughter Yoga And Arthritis
Laughter may not be the most scientific alternative, yet it has proved right the old adage that it is the best medicine. A good laugh has the ability to ease pain as a result of disease or injury. Laughter offers respite from arthritis stress and provides both physical and mental relief.
Approximately 350 million people worldwide have arthritis and almost the same number suffers from spondylitis. Nearly 40 million persons in the United States alone are affected by arthritis, including over a quarter million children!
Both arthritis and spondylitis are debilitating disorders with inflammation of the joints. Arthritis is frequently accompanied by joint pain and the common symptoms include pain and limited function of joints. Inflammation of the joints in arthritis is characterized by stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis caused by the wear and tear of cartilage and the other is other is rheumatoid arthritis which is an inflammation resulting from an overactive immune system. Among the spondylitis family, Anklyosing spondylitis is the primary disease and is a form of chronic arthritis that primarily
affects the spine.
Documented research has proved that laughter has enormous benefits on one’s physical, mental and emotional health. It is more than just a physical response. It is a great workout that boosts the immune system, increases circulation and the threshold for pain.
Scientific studies show that laughter has positive effects on the heart, blood vessels, stress hormones, mental health and family relationships. These health benefits of laughter all contribute to smoother overall functioning, which in turn speeds injury healing and helps manage chronic pain.
Laughter Yoga – a healing force
Positive emotions: It has been proven by psychoneuroimmunologists that negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression and anger, weaken the immune system of the body, thereby reducing its capacity to fight infections. Laughter helps to increase the count of natural killer lymphocytes in the bloodstream and also to raise antibody levels.
Realizing the significance of laughter, Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria started laughter clubs and developed Laughter Yoga, a unique exercise routine followed by millions worldwide. It combines laughter exercises with deep yogic breathing to provide a complete workout for health and wellness. People who participate in laughter clubs have reported remarkable reduction of pain and improvement in physical mobility and flexibility.
Laughter is a Natural Pain Killer
Laughter increases the levels of endorphins – the body’s natural pain killers. Norman Cousins, an American journalist who was suffering from an incurable disease of the spine, benefited from laughter therapy in a situation when all painkillers were ineffective. Cousins found that 10 minutes of laughter gave him an extra two hours of pain-free sleep.
Endorphins released as a result of laughter may help in reducing the intensity of pain in those suffering from arthritis, spondylitis and muscular spasms of the body. This provides immediate pain relief typically lasting for 2 hours. It can relieve headaches, muscular and joint pain and is powerful enough that a number of practitioners have undergone surgery using laughter instead of anesthetics!
The release of these beta endorphins also causes the adrenal glands to manufacture cortisol, which is natural anti-inflammatory and is wonderful for arthritis.
Laughter increases mobility
Arthritis is often aggravated by lack of exercise and movement, particularly later in life with retirement and reduced physical mobility. Laughter Yoga provides a complete massage of all mid-body organs and is the most effective method to promote circulation in the lymphatic system. The combination of natural pain killers with movements in laughter exercises makes Laughter Yoga a powerful tool for physiotherapy. Many practitioners have reported reversal of ‘frozen shoulder’ and other movement limitations due to stroke, arthritis, and injury.
Benefits of laughter have thus been recognized and prescribed. Belly laughter as practiced in Laughter Yoga is a great way of activating deep breathing facilitating better control of chronic diseases. Laughter is a safe, easy and economical method to enhance good health and longevity.