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Reduce Stress With Laughter Yoga

Updated on October 21, 2013
Too Much Fun!
Too Much Fun! | Source

Why Did I Decide to Attend Laughter Yoga?

Part of my quest to build a bionic immune system involves reducing stress in my life. It is well known that stress can cause the production of hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrin which over the long term can impact the efficiency and health of your immune system. Laughter has been proven to decrease stress hormone production, and therefore to help boost the function of the immune system. However, it isn't always easy to just "add laughter" to your daily life, but my research led me to an interesting way to meet this goal - laughter yoga.

Though my husband has been supportive and helpful with most things, he said "you are on your own with this one". I didn't even try to ask any of my friends to go with me, since I could easily predict the "are you insane?" responses. At one time in my life I would have been scared to do something like this alone, but going through a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy completely redefined my definition of "scary". Very little seems intimidating to me in comparison. Although building my immune system requires enormous amounts of research, as well as trial and error, I still believe I can have fun along the way - so laughter yoga here I come!

What is Laughter Yoga?

Laughter Yoga is a combination of unconditional laughter and yoga breathing. It is based on the scientific theory that the body cannot differentiate between real laughter and fake laughter. Therefore, a person can benefit without having to rely on jokes and comedy - which can be important when life is throwing you a few hurdles that make it hard to see the humor.

There are four steps to follow in a typical Laughter Yoga session:

  1. Clapping and warming up exercises
  2. Deep breathing exercises
  3. Childlike playfulness
  4. Laughter exercises

For a comprehensive understanding of Laughter Yoga please check out the video. It is guaranteed to make you laugh!

Dr. Madan Kataria
Dr. Madan Kataria | Source

Who Started the Laughter Yoga Trend?

In March 1995 Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, wrote an article called "Laughter - the Best Medicine" for his monthly health magazine. He was inspired by Norman Cousins - famous for having "laughed his way back to health". Dr. Kataria was surprised by his own research that laughter was so beneficial to health. Norman Cousins had suffered from heart disease and developed a condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which caused deterioration of the connective tissue. He was told he had very little chance of long term survival and should expect to live 6 months at best. Cousins left the hospital determined to change his negative environment, and gathered a collection of films that he found funny. He constantly watched these films and found it helped him a lot with pain management and he eventually returned to good health. He died 26 years later of heart failure after living a long life and surviving many years beyond his doctor's prediction.

What are the Benefits of Laughter Yoga?

Laughter activates the immune system by increasing T-cell activity, increasing IGA antibodies which help fight infections, and increasing the number of cells that attack cancerous cells. Also, it increases blood circulation and assists in fighting depression, lowers blood pressure, and even reduces symptoms of allergies, asthma, and arthritis, Finally, Laughter Yoga decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases the "feel-good" hormones otherwise known as endorphins. With all these compelling health benefits (and the fact that most sessions are free of charge!) how can you not be even a little tempted to check out Laughter Yoga?

Fun Laughter Yoga Facts

  1. Children laugh on average 300-400 times a day but most adults laugh less than 15 times a day.
  2. 20 seconds of intense laughter burns the same calories as 3 minutes of intense cardio. I think this is a much more fun way to burn calories.
  3. Many laughter clubs also engage in philanthropic activities to help others in their country.
  4. Laughter exercises 15 facial muscles, replacing those wrinkles and worry lines with more youthful laugh lines.

Participating in a Laughter Yoga Session in New York City

After getting off the elevator I nervously glanced through the glass doors. The group leader opened the door with a warm greeting. He gave me a brochure and told me to watch a video explaining the Laughter Yoga concept until we were ready to begin. The guy sitting next to me was laughing hysterically through the video including during the serious parts. I wasn't laughing at all and thought there was no way I would be able to laugh during the session - but I decided I could always fake-laugh to be polite.

After a total of about 15 people had arrived, we stood in a circle and were told to make eye contact while we walked around and clapped while chanting "ho, ho, ha, ha, ha". I felt a little awkward at first and faked a laugh a few times while making eye contact and chanting. We alternated this activity with playful exercises such as pretending to floss our teeth, spray each other with a hose, and open a credit card bill and then laugh. I have to admit the very concept of opening my credit card bill during a year of financial stress and laughing really did seem funny. Finally, the general atmosphere of laughter, along with the somewhat plump leader shaking his hips during the "ho, ho" exercise forced me to laugh hysterically. I saw a cleaning person outside and could only imagine what she was thinking and that made me laugh even harder.

After the playful activities, we did a few calm breathing exercises on the mat and then were told to lie down with the lights out and give ourselves permission to laugh. It turns out laughter is infectious and I found myself laughing. The half hour session was followed by a group discussion with snacks and drinks and all. He asked us newbies what we thought and I told him I was surprised that I had been able to laugh. Other people said they had a stressful day for reasons such as work and felt so much better. The leader also asked people that have been attending on a regular basis how it affected their life. Many said they laugh more often even during serious times. Another guy said that he likes coming because he knows he is guaranteed to have a good time.

The health benefits of laughter are numerous and it is important to remember to include it in your life. My children make me truly laugh from my soul, but you can never get too much laughter. Laughter clubs now exist all over the world and many classes are free of charge, so be adventurous and drop in on a Yoga Laughter session. Cheers to good health and a lifetime of laughter!


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    • healthylife2 profile image
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      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thanks for making me laugh with that visual Zanaworld! We can never get too much laughter in our day and the benefits are numerous. Thanks so much for your entertaining comment. I will be stopping by soon to check out your hubs:)

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hi Brett! So interesting that laughter yoga is part of the program! I can say from first hand experience that even if people feel awkward initially they will not feel any stress during a laughter yoga session. It is a great approach without any risks or side effects. Thanks so much for the vote and sharing etc....always appreciate your visit!

    • zanaworld profile image

      SA Shameel 4 years ago from Bangalore

      Very useful hub! Laughter therapy is very effective for lot of reasons. Recently, a few elderly ladies barge into a corporate office of a IT company in early office opening hours, laughed to fullest for 15-minutes. This was to give boosts to staff there. Agony aunties turn laughter therapist!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 4 years ago from Thailand

      Would you believe that this is a part of the Bangkok Traffic police's anti-stress program!? It was very funny to see them all laughing, but also proves that laughter is very contagious. It is an interesting and yet effective approach to stress.

      Up, awesome, pinned, tweeted and sharing.

    • healthylife2 profile image
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      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @Chitrangada...I love your comment describing laughter yoga in India especially for the elderly. I wish it was more prevalent in the US. I think there would be less depression and stress. We do have classes here but I had to find them and have never heard of sessions at homes for the elderly. What a great idea! It would help us all to laugh more. Thanks so much for the visit and comment adding value to the discussion.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nice hub!

      Laughter yoga is very popular in India and especially among 'Senior Citizens'. It is a common sight in early mornings in walking and jogging parks in Delhi.

      I have no doubts about its effectiveness, because I have seen people benefit from it. There is a considerable positive change in their behavior----people who attend it once, in fact look forward to attending more sessions. It is in fact a therapy to cure depression, stress and withdrawal symptoms. It is a blessing for 'Elderly people', who somehow start feeling lonely, as their children become too busy with their lives.

      Thanks for this engaging hub.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @dwachira...I did feel really awkward at the beginning but continued for the sake of research. It's one of those things that if you do it consistently you would become more comfortable. Also it would help to bring a friend the first time. The part where we were lying on the mat with the lights out and laughing was much easier to handle because we weren't walking around and making eye contact. It's so interesting that this trend is becoming international. Thanks you so much for your comment and I really appreciate the vote and share.

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi healthylife2,

      I would actually feel little awkward walking around and clapping while chanting "ho, ho, ha, ha, ha". I have never heard of a laughter yoga but reading this article has enlightened me on what it is and the benefits derived from it. Thanks for sharing such useful health information. Voted up, useful and shared.

    • healthylife2 profile image
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      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @moneyfairy...Locking myself in a room and laughing for a straight week sounds amazing! Laughter has such long lasting benefits both physically and emotionally. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and comment. I hope to see you again:)

    • moneyfairy profile image

      moneyfairy 4 years ago

      I've heard in the past about laughter helping cure someones illness. They locked themselves in a room for a week and watched only comedies and said they cured themselves. Laughter is an awesome tool!!! Great hub!!!Thanks!!!

    • healthylife2 profile image
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      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thanks so for coming back for a visit midget38. I agree that this international trend is a great one. You can never have to much laughter. Thanks so much for the comment and share!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Came in again to comment and share this hub, Healthy life, because it's a fine concept!!

    • healthylife2 profile image
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      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Glad you enjoyed this one Written Up! It was fun to take a break from the parental responsibilities and act silly and just laugh since that was the goal so i had to at least try. Laugh away in the morning since no one can really hear you in the car:)

    • Written Up profile image

      Written Up 4 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

      Love it. What a fantastic article. I really enjoyed reading this - I wanted to laugh out loud, but the kids are asleep and my husband would think I lost my mind. I'm wondering if I can just laugh while I drive to work each morning!

    • healthylife2 profile image
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      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @jainismus...It was fun to be in a place where the only goal was to laugh. Thanks for the vote and really appreciate the share!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      Great Hub. Voted up and shared.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      ignugent17...It was fun and being around other people laughing made me laugh! Right back at you...Have a good laugh day too! Thanks for the visit :)

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      I saw this one on TV and it looks really fun. Thanks for sharing it is really good for health.

      Have a good laugh day! :-))

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @Vinaya Ghimire...I hope you enjoyed Laughter Yoga as much as I did. I agree that laughter is amazing therapy and you can never get too much laughter in one day. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. Hope to see you again!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      Laughing is a wonderful therapy. I have been to laughing yoga. Thanks for this comprehensive article.

      PS: Thanks for reading and commenting on my article.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @greeneryday...It was much for fun than I anticipated! Thanks so much for the comment and the vote.

    • greeneryday profile image

      greeneryday 4 years ago from Some tropical country

      This so fun. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and more!

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @Om Paramapoonya...It was much more fun than I anticipated and I'm actually thinking about doing it again. Being in a group made the laughter easier since everyone was acting silly. Laughing as much as possible in life is awesome! Thanks so much for the visit and the comment. Hope to see you again.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

      I heard about laughter yoga before but wasn't sure how a laughter yoga class was conducted. Thanks for sharing this interesting info and your personal experience. Sounds amazing! It's always good to laugh, especially with other people.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @Robert Erich...It's great you laugh a lot because we should never stop. Sometimes all those adult responsibilities add up and we "forget" to laugh. Having kids helps me remember. When I reread this article I start laughing at the memory of the class so I'm happy I tried it with an open mind. I completely agree that life is so much better with laughter!! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and for the vote and share!

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

      This is a great article! I am sharing it and voted it up. I love the laughter yoga concept - and your experience sounded legendary. I was almost laughing just thinking about it. I probably laugh a lot more than many people, but I have heard that kids tend to laugh several hundred times a day whereas adults laugh only a few dozen. It's a bummer - life's so much better with some laughter!

      Thanks for the great article. I'm sure it will inspire many.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @Sunshine625...Glad the photo made you laugh! It's 95% laughter and 5% yoga. Very fun and worth trying. Thanks so much for the visit and comment!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I like laughter and I like yoga! This concept is genius. Just looking at the first photo makes me laugh! :)

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @fiftyish...Can't think of a better way to start your day! Mine starts with racing to get the kids to school but if this was laughter yoga I would pretend we missed the bus and laugh about it so maybe will at least think about that. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Thanks for the follow and loved the fan mail!

    • fiftyish profile image

      Andy Aitch 4 years ago from UK & South East Asian Region

      Can we laugh ourselves back into good health? I'm not sure about that, but it certainly can't hurt trying ;)

      You know, I always start a new day with a bit of a chuckle. As soon as I wake up, I deliberately recall some TV program of event that had me in stitches, and it's almost impossible to not at least titter a bit.

      For me personally, having a bit of a giggle to oneself at first light is a lovely way to start any day, and reading this hub has just reinforced my belief :)

      Andy Aitch

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      So happy the article made you smile Hyphenbird! Going through extremely stressful situations redefines the definition of stress and you are right that it takes a lot to get a person stressed after that. We all need that reminder to remain joyful and laughter is free. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your continued support and great comments!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I found myself smiling as I read this article. So the concept really must work. You said when faced with a great and life threatening situation, not much intimidated one. You are right. So much has happened in our family the last years that it takes a lot to get me against the wall. Laughter sounds like a fun way to relieve the stress. I am reminded that God tells us to remain joyful. So I am laughing out loud while typing. Thank you for a needed reminder.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @stessily...I'm so happy that this made you laugh! Just thinking about opening a credit card bill and laughing made me laugh when I was doing the dishes so I guess the class was quite a benefit. Unlike processed food and sugar there is absolutely no danger in getting too much laughter. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I so much appreciate your kind words and the vote!

    • profile image

      stessily 4 years ago

      healthylife2, Well presented and interesting. I laughed along with the mentioned activities of pretending to floss teeth and of spraying with a hose, but I succumbed to a deep and lengthy fit of the chuckles with the activity of laughing at a credit card bill! Although I am quite familiar with laughter yoga, I find your presentation to be entertaining and informative. I appreciate that you shared this experience; it seems to me that just reading your words and enjoying the nicely selected photos should be beneficial. Up + UFABI, but especially FUNNY!

      Appreciatively, Stessily

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @dinkan53...I felt it was important for me to try a class to gain a true understanding of the topic so glad you appreciated the last section. I'm glad you found this information helpful! Thank you so much for the vote and share!

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Heather63...Silly and fun is a great description! Many people use Laughter Yoga to deal with stress and depression. The simple concept of laughter is very powerful. Thanks for the visit and the comment!

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 4 years ago from India

      Very helpful and informative article specifically the last section about your first class. I care for such information a lot. I was looking for this particular information about laughter yoga and laughter clubs. Thank you for sharing and good luck…. Voted up and interesting, shared with my followers.

    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Great subject - and a great story about your first class! I was at a healthy lifestyle -type conference a couple of months ago and saw a class being held. It looked both very silly and very fun to me. And I can personally attest to the power of laughter to heal from depression as well as stress. Thanks for the post.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @Rajan...Good health is a great motivation. A woman in the class told me she has a group of people come to her husband's hospital room for a laughter yoga session. Laughter Yoga is an international trend and a good one. Thanks for commenting and I really appreciate you taking the time to share on facebook and G+1!!

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @midget38...There is a youtube video of Dr. Kataria himself leading a laughter yoga class in Singapore. Check out a class and let me know what you think. Thanks for the comment and the share!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting. Remaining healthy is the best incentive to laugh. We have these laughter yoga groups, doing so early in the mornings, in the parks.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

      Sharing on G+1 and Facebook.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      This sounds like something I'd like to try, healthy life! It really is a case of being "Laughter is the best medicine." If there are classes in Singapore, I'd like to take them, as I'm into yoga myself. Thanks for the share, and I'm sharing.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thelma Alberts...A teacher attended the session so he could try it with his students. Some laughter yoga leaders go into schools and say it is so beneficial for children especially in high crime areas where there is more stress. It felt really awkward for the first half of the session and then I was able to relax a little more and have fun. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      I have done this laughter yoga when I joined a 2 days seminar about relaxation for children. I wrote a hub about it. I was surprised that it was one of the topic in the seminar. At first, I thought it was crazy and that we´re losing our marbles but I have changed my mind and love it. I do this laughter yoga sometimes with my nieces and it´s fun. Thanks for reminding me about it.

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @unknown spy...It is fun and I plan to do it again. It is definitely worth trying once! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    • healthylife2 profile image
      Author

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      @tammyswallow...The Yoga part involves some breathing and two easy stretches while standing. The rest is pure fun! Thanks for stopping by!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Wow amazing! Sounds interesting and so fun to try!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      What a concept! I have never heard of this before. I would love to watch a class do this. Yoga hurts and I am not sure I could laugh while through the pain, but I would l love to find out. Very fun and interesting hub!