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Words Heinrich Visser

It’s said that laughter is the best medicine and scientific research is finding there is much truth in this assertion.

Laughter Yoga has numerous benefits and there are a lot of scientific studies done on Laughter Yoga by scientists and universities around the world. A 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, stated that social Laughter Yoga elevates pain thresholds. The researchers suggested: “These results can best be explained by the action of endorphins released by laughter.”

 Laughter stimulates multiple physiological systems that decrease levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, and increase the activation of dopamine-dispensing, according to a 2017 study in which researchers found that laughter decreased a wide variety of stress hormones.

 Another study with college students found that laughter increased salivary IgA. Researchers have also found evidence of laughter’s ability to increase the body’s natural killer (NK) cells. The study, published in the American Journal of Medical Sciences, found significantly increased NK cell activity in a group of males after watching humorous videos.

High blood pressure is one of the most dangerous side effects of stress, as well as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In a 2011 study, researchers exposed 79 participants to either a music or laughter therapy. Immediately after sessions, the blood pressure readings from the laughers lowered by 7 mmHg – (millimetres of mercury, how the blood pressure readings on a sphygmomanometer are abbreviated). In comparison, music therapy only brought blood pressure down by 6 mmHg. After three months, the blood pressure readings significantly decreased overall by 5 mmHg among the laughter participants. People in the comparison group showed no change in blood pressure readings.

A further 2014 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that laughter can burn calories. They found that those who laughed burned up to 10 calories in 10 minutes, as compared to those who did not laugh and did not burn any calories.

Laughter Yoga has also been shown to improve anxiety in patients with Parkinson’s disease, reduce anxiety and depression in nursing students and improve optimism, self-esteem and depression in menopausal women and restore mobility in stroke patients.

Laughter Yoga also reduces MS (multiple sclerosis) symptoms. Laughter Yoga offers numerous scientific and psychological benefits; it helps people with neurological conditions. It was found that Laughter Yoga is excellent for boosting the immune system, elevating mood and resilience. It increases brain capacity and helps build social confidence.

What is Laughter Yoga?

Laughter Yoga is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria and his wife, Madhuri Kataria. It started with five people in a park in Mumbai, India (1995) and has spread to more than 120 countries around the world. Laughing for no reason is the core philosophy of Laughter Yoga methods. We must remember that children can laugh 300 to 400 times in a day while adults laugh only 15 times.

Five secrets of laughing for no reason:

SECRET 1: We don’t need a sense of humour to laugh. Most people believe that one must have a sense of humour to laugh, but Laughter Yoga has proven otherwise. To develop the ability to laugh joyfully, it is important to remove all inhibitions and conditioning created by self, family and society. Laughter Yoga facilitates this cleaning process and helps to release natural joyful laughter inside us. The techniques are effective even for people who have lost their laughter or have absolutely no sense of humour.

SECRET 2: Motion creates emotion. There is an inherent link between the body and mind. Whatever happens to the mind happens to the body. Therefore, if one changes the quality of thoughts, one can feel a change in body behaviour. If one can bring a change in body behaviour one can experience the change in mental state. Laughter Yoga has the ability to synchronise both body and the mind, maintaining a mutual harmony.

SECRET 3: You can laugh even if you are not happy. There is an old saying: “If you are not happy, act like a happy person and you will become one.” There is great wisdom and science behind ‘acting out happiness’. Medical research shows that even if you pretend to laugh or act happy, your body produces happy chemicals.

SECRET 4: Cultivate childlike playfulness. Laughter is not about laughing. It is actually about cultivating childlike playfulness. Once you learn to play, you don’t have to laugh. Laughter will be the natural outcome of your playful inner child. Though laughing in a group provides a stimulus, a childlike behaviour by adults helps them to get over their inhibitions and actually loosen up.

SECRET 5: You can train your body and mind to laugh. By repeating any bodily behaviour over a period of time, the mind begins to generate a predictable response. Thus, by doing laughter exercises on a regular basis, people become conditioned to be joyful. With Laughter Yoga, the brain develops new neuronal connections that produce happy chemistry in the body. These reactions can be triggered simply by laughter exercises and doing certain actions of the body which lead the mind to experience the emotion of joy.

Steps of Laughter Yoga:
We clap with our hands parallel to each other for full finger-to-finger and palm-to-palm contact. This stimulates acupressure points in the hands and increases energy levels.
Deep breathing:
Laughter exercises are interspersed with deep breathing exercises to help flush the lungs as well as bring physical and mental relaxation.
Childlike playfulness:
The objective of Laughter Yoga is to cultivate childlike playfulness that helps you laugh without any reason, keeps the energy levels and builds enthusiasm.
Laughter exercises
: Laughter exercises are the mainstay of the session. They help to reduce inhibition and shyness and convert simulated laughter into unconditional laughter.
Laughter meditation:
The objective of laughter meditation is to get real laughter going for at least 10 to 15 minutes and it’s amazing to see how people are actually releasing issues during this part of a workshop and laughter really flows like a fountain during this important part of a workshop.
Guided relaxation
: We normally do a very simple guided relaxation followed by a short Yoga Nidra session.
Grounding exercises:
We normally end the session with a grounding exercise.

Heinrich Visser is a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher (2009), International Laughter Ambassador (2020) and corporate coach. He is available for corporate workshops, training seminars and retreats. For more information: https://web.facebook.com/heinrich1.visser