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  • Patricia Faust

Laughter Yoga - Huh?


When is the last time you had a belly laugh? It has been a while for me. As I looked over my state of stress lately, I realized I had to do better. Stress and Burnout are so prevalent right now and I don’t think I am the only one who hasn’t had a good laugh in quite a while.


The Benefits of Laughter

There is a lot of brainwork that goes into laughter. It activates areas of the brain that control motor, emotional, cognitive and social processing. And because it really stretches brain activity, it provides many benefits. Laughter has the power to activate the motor cortex (controls muscles), the frontal lobe (helps you understand context), and the limbic system (modulates positive emotions). You strengthen all of these neural connections when you laugh, making your physical and emotional response to stress less intense.


Laughter produces positive emotions that can lead to a meaningful life. That is a very big outcome to the act of laughing! When you are in this state of joy, you are literally building resilience and increasing your creative thinking. Laughter, in response to amusement is a healthy coping mechanism. These feelings increase subjective well-being and life satisfaction. Researchers found that these positive emotions experienced with humor and laughter, correlate with appreciating the meaning of life and helps older adults hold a benign view of difficulties they have faced over a lifetime.


The Benefits of Laughter Yoga

What is Laughter Yoga? It is a new twist on an ancient practice. Not only does it increase happiness, but it also strengthens the immune system, reduces pain and lowers stress. I challenge you to find a pill that does all that! Laughter is more contagious than a cough or a sneeze, and it relaxes the whole body. It triggers the release of endorphins, promoting an overall sense of well-being. When it is combined with yogic breathing, laughter truly becomes the best medicine, providing extensive health benefits.


In the mid-1990’s, the Indian physician Madan Kataria developed laughter yoga based on the concept that voluntary laughter could provide the same health benefits as spontaneous laughter. Instead of using humor, laughter is initiated through creative exercise. Practitioners do not have to master any of the traditional yoga postures. They simply need to laugh.


What Does a Laughter Yoga Session Look Like?

Classes start with some mingling and talking about laughter. Then the group will warm up with some stretches and breathing exercises. After that, the laughter games start. The whole session is a guided practice of deep belly laughing. Sessions end with silent meditation.


The instructor may explore new types of laughter when facilitating the group:

· Playful – In playful exercises, participants are encouraged to use their imaginations by role playing certain scenarios in a playful way. They take a prompt, such as a milkshake, and participate in a whimsical play-acting scene. This often produces contagious laughter as students overcome inhibitions and grow more comfortable with each other.


· Value-based – Many older people can develop negative feelings toward life in general. This is true of many people right now. Value-based exercises are designed to help. By associating laughter with common life-occurrences, they can develop a healthier mindset.


· Yoga-based – One of the foundations of a successful yoga practice is controlled breathing. Laughter yoga uses breathing techniques to force air (and subsequent laughter) out of the lungs and build lung capacity.


· Physical – Some classes focus on particular physical difficulties. For example, one session might target muscles in the neck and shoulders, using exercises to loosen those muscles and help them relax.


· Meditative – Many laughter yoga sessions are followed by laughter meditation. It starts with a quiet room. Then one person starts the laughter, and soon it becomes contagious, causing others to join in. Laughter meditation can be quite cathartic.

The main goal of laughter yoga is to release stress and physical and mental tension that often go along with it. The more participants laugh during sessions, the greater the benefits they are likely to receive.

(The Serious Benefits of Laughter Yoga, Jennifer Wegener)


What Do People Like Most About Laughter Yoga?

Laughter Yoga promotes health and wellness. This is what people like the most about this practice:

· Body – It makes you feel relaxed and energized; stress and pain melt away

· Mind – Your mind becomes clearer and sharper

· Emotions – You feel more grounded

· Social – You feel more connected to people around you

· Spiritual – It boosts your self esteem

(The Serious Benefits of Laughter Yoga, Jennifer Wegener)


The benefits of laughter have been known to us for quite a while. Laughter Yoga gives us the opportunity to laugh, an especially valuable practice these days. The Virtual Brain Health Center has a Laughter Yoga program available and it comes right into your own home. Go to www.virtualbrainhealthcenter.com and check out the calendar of events for December.


Note: By the time you receive this blog, the Laughter Yoga program might be over for this month. Feel free to contact VBHC to find when another class will be scheduled.


References:

Gibson,J. (November 23,2020). Laughing is good for your mind and your body – here’s what the research shows. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/laughing-is-good-for-your-mind-and-your-body-heres-what-the-research-shows-145984?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign


Wegener,J. (November 19, 2019). The serious benefits of laughter yoga.Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/laughter-yoga

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