When most people think of yoga, they think of moving, stretching, and contorting themselves into pretzel-like positions—but laughter yoga is a different type of yoga that combines laughter and yogic breathing exercises (called pranayama). During laughter yoga, participants engage in “self-triggered” laughter as a body exercise with eye contact and childlike playfulness. The laughter is physical in nature and does not involve comedy or humor. This simulated laughter eventually turns into genuine—and contagious—laughter.
Laughter yoga may seem silly at first glance, but there is some cold, hard science behind it. Clinical research has proven that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine in the blood and boosts the immune system.1 Furthermore, it can help to foster a positive, optimistic attitude and counteract feelings of anxiety, depression, and helplessness.
Interestingly, the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter—both provide the same physiological and psychological benefits. So the simulated laughter in laughter yoga provides the same mood boost as the spontaneous eruption of laughter at something funny. What’s more, laughter can tighten the abdominal muscles and provide aerobic benefits. In fact, one minute of intense laughter is as beneficial as ten on a treadmill.
So, if you’re feeling bogged down by stress, pay a visit to laughter yoga class and feel your spirits lift. The practice has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon, with more than 8,000 laughter clubs on five continents in about 60 countries. Find a laughter yoga club near you.
1 Berk LS, Felten DL, Tan SA, Bittman BB, Westengard J. Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2001;7(2):62-72, 74-76.