Laughter Yoga (Hasyayoga) is a form of yoga employing self-triggered laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on the scientific observation that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter, and that both provide the same physiological and psychological benefits. Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughter with pranayama (yogic breathing). Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, initially forced laughter soon turns into real and contagious laughter. The “laughter” is physical in nature, and does not necessarily involve humor or comedy.

Laughter yoga was made popular as an exercise routine developed by Indian physician Madan Kataria, who writes about the practice in his book Laugh For No Reason. In the mid-1990s Laughter Yoga was practiced in the early mornings, primarily by groups of older men in open parks. Later, a more formalized version was created and popularized as “Laughter Clubs”. Kataria’s first Laughter Yoga Club began on 13 March 1995 in Mumbai; beginning with five people in a local public park, the concept has rapidly spread worldwide. As of 2011, there are more than 8,000 Laughter Clubs in 65 countries. IMG_2584

Why do it?

Anyone can laugh without needing to rely on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is initially simulated as a physical exercise while maintaining eye contact with others in the group and promoting childlike playfulness. In most cases this soon leads to real and contagious laughter, fake laughter quickly becomes real. Scientific studies have demonstrated that the body does not differentiate between simulated and real laughter. Laughter Yoga brings more oxygen to the body and brain by incorporating yogic breathing which results in deep diaphragmatic breathing.Laughter Yoga is the only technique that allows adults to achieve sustained hearty laughter without involving cognitive thought. It bypasses the intellectual systems that normally act as a brake on natural laughter.

How it is done

Laughter Yoga sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques which include stretching, chanting, clapping and body movement. These help break down inhibitions and develop feelings of ‘childlike playfulness’. Breathing exercises are used to prepare the lungs for laughter, followed by a series of ‘laughter exercises’ that combine the method of acting and visualization techniques with playfulness. These exercises, when combined with the strong social dynamics of group behavior, lead to prolonged and hearty unconditional laughter. Laughter exercises are interspersed with breathing exercises.[3] Twenty minutes of laughter is sufficient to develop full physiological benefits. A Laughter Yoga session may finish with “Laughter Meditation.” This is a session of unstructured laughter whereby participants sit or lie down and allow natural laughter to flow from within like a fountain. This is a powerful experience that often leads to a healthy emotional catharsis and also a feeling of release and joyfulness that can last for days. This can be followed by guided relaxation exercises.