By Alexa Fong Drubay
Since it was first created by Indian cardiologist Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995, laughter yoga has become popular in 106 countries, where it’s now practiced at tens of thousands of laughter clubs.
A combination of mindful laughter exercises and deep yogic breathing, it’s an excellent way to cultivate inner joy — the kind of joy that studies have shown supports both resilience and wellness.
Through fun and playful exercises inspired by everyday situations, laughter yoga incorporates the four elements of joy: laughter, singing, dancing and play.
These exercises stimulate the right side of the brain, boosting creativity, sparking the imagination and improving concentration and focus. Laughter yoga also helps to regulate blood pressure while flooding the body with feel-good endorphins and reducing levels of stress hormones.
And those are just a few of the benefits.
Sessions typically last an hour and while laughing is often simulated in the beginning, it quickly turns into real, contagious laughter. Anyone can benefit whether you’re fake-laughing or clutching your side and howling since it’s a scientific fact that your body cannot tell the difference between fake or real laughter.
Don’t have a laughter yoga club in your area? Are you reading this and thinking you could use some more levity in your life right now?
Here’s an easy at-home practice to inspire a more joyful day:
1. It all starts with a smile. The simple action of smiling activates neural messaging that is beneficial to your health. Once you smile, you soften your heart area, opening up the gateway for feelings of compassion and empathy.
2. Graduate to a soft giggle. Breathe in and allow a gentle laugh to surface. In laughter yoga, we breathe from the diaphragm, drawing more oxygen into the body and increasing its flow to the heart and brain. Put your hand right below your rib cage to feel your diaphragm engage.
3. Wink at yourself in the mirror and then laugh at yourself. Become playful and have fun with complimenting yourself on something well done: “Wow, I really brushed my teeth well today, hahahahah.”
4. Give yourself a nice laughter hug.
5. If something isn’t going well for you, give yourself a pep talk: “No biggie. Let’s try it again. I can do this, hahahahaha!’
6. If something went well, be your No.1 Cheerleader: “Very good, very good, yay!”
Give yourself permission to mix a laugh into anything you’re doing. The more you laugh, the better you feel — no jokes necessary.
You may also want to experiment with different types of laughter. Try some of these on your own or with a friend.
1. Gratitude laughter (for feeling safe and loved, for having friends and family, for being pain-free, for a gift you’ve received, for the beauty that surrounds you, etc.)
2. Forgiveness laughter (to let yourself off the hook if you’re being hard on yourself or feel you’ve messed up. Let yourself know “I am sorry, it’s okay/no big deal/it’s all water under the bridge”)
3. Embarrassment laughter (for life’s “oops” moments, if you’ve forgotten something, are running late or have confused dates and times)
4. Losing control laughter (to shift your energy if you’re lost, stuck in a traffic jam or elevator, frustrated at a red light, etc.)
5. Letting go laughter (deliberately goofy and may include snorting, different tones of laughter, dance moves and/or singing an operatic song with just “ho ho” and “ha ha”)
The more you practice different kinds of laughter, the better you will feel and the more you laugh, the better you’ll react to things beyond your control. Laughing will not make your problems disappear but offer a positive approach to managing your stress levels. You can take charge of your reactions, which ultimately helps you to become a more joyful and healthy individual.
If you’re not already signed up for our 30 Days of Joy online course, click here to enroll!