Laughter is the Best Medicine
The Origin, Practice, and Benefits of Laughter Yoga
Over the years, researchers have become increasingly interested in the healing power of laughter. Although the results of studies have been mixed, one thing is certain: laughter has a positive impact on your health.
Medical treatment is usually the first line of action when you become ill. Yet in some cases, complementary or alternative forms of medicine may also be worth exploring. Alternative treatments can be particularly important for seniors, who often experience uncomfortable side effects when taking medication. In such cases, Laughter Yoga is an alternative practice that’s well worth discovering.
The Origin of Laughter Yoga
Laughter Yoga is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician based in Mumbai. Curious about the health benefits of laughter, Dr. Kataria developed the concept behind Laughter Yoga while writing an article titled “Laughter – The Best Medicine.” In 1995 he started the first Laughter Club with five participants.
In the early days of Kataria’s Laughter Club, participants were asked to react to jokes or funny stories. Trouble arose when some members began to feel insulted by the jokes. Searching for a solution, Dr. Kataria intensified his research and discovered a peculiar fact: both genuine laughter and simulated laughter have similar effects on the body. At the next meeting of the Laughter Club, he asked participants to fake laughter for one minute. The simulated laughter quickly turned into real laughter for some members of the group, and this laughter grew to be contagious. This marked the beginning of Laughter Yoga.
According to Vishwa Prakash, president of Laughter Yoga USA and a pioneer of the practice, there are now over 16,000 laughter clubs with 200,000 participants across 65 countries. Laughter Yoga is quickly gaining acceptance across the world, particularly among seniors. Effective as both a social exercise and a therapeutic practice, seniors can derive great benefit from Laughter Yoga for the relief of physical ailments and social isolation.
The Practice of Laughter Yoga
Yoga is based on the idea that the mind is reflected by the body and vice versa. Concentrating on the breath while moving between poses is key to the practice of yoga, because breathing is seen as the bridge between the mind and body. By deepening your breath, you can calm your body.
Yoga, in its various forms, is a cost-effective form of exercise that doesn’t require sophisticated or expensive equipment. Laughter Yoga is even more flexible because it can be performed anywhere and anytime. This makes it a particularly attractive activity for seniors, who often find it difficult to stick with a fitness routine.
Laughter Yoga is not merely a mental exercise. It combines laughter with physical movement, stretching, and breathing exercises. These activities increase the intake of oxygen, enhance blood flow, and improve circulation. Some studies have recently concluded that Laughter Yoga can be as effective as group exercise.
The Benefits of Laughter Yoga
1. Laughter Yoga Relieves Stress
Laughter doesn’t require much effort, yet it can bring instant relaxation. Researchers have shown that a good laugh lowers stress-associated hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Stress relief and pain reduction are two of the most important benefits of the practice. Laughter results in a surge of endorphins, which are potent natural painkillers.
2. Laughter Yoga Improves Cardiac Health
Stress has been associated with cardiac disease and high blood pressure. Studies have shown that by laughing for only ten minutes you can reduce your blood pressure by 10 to 20 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Although laughter may not provide a cure, it can help prevent and manage the disease.
3. Laughter Yoga Improves Lung Capacity
Shallow breathing isn’t as beneficial to the lungs as deep breathing. Laughter Yoga encourages deep breaths, activating the full capacity of the lungs and exercising the abdominal muscles and diaphragm.
Beyond the physical benefits, Laughter Yoga can have a significant positive impact on your mental health. The practice has shown to be particularly helpful for conditions like depression and insomnia, both of which commonly affect the lives of seniors.
So go ahead and laugh! Harness the healing power of laughter for a more holistic sense of health and happiness.
Are you looking to laugh with others? Contact us at Priya Living to find out more about our programs for senior residents.