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How to Tickle Your Funny Bone—Sign up for Laughter Yoga

May 5, 2024

2 min read

A popular concept and on the rise, laughter yoga is taking the world by storm—and no, it’s not just for older folks. Dr Madan, the founder of laughter yoga, highlights the numerous health benefits of laughter yoga.

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An image of the founder of laughter yoga, Dr Madan Kataria along with a quote by him outlining the beginning of laughter yoga
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Put your hands straight up in the air, take a deep breath and bring them down forcefully. Now try that again, but this time around, laugh your exhale out. Hands up, bring them down and laugh, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha. Keep going, louder with every iteration. Seems silly, right? But you’d be surprised by how much better you will feel after this exercise. Read on to know how the common proverb, laughter is the best medicine, might just have some merit to it.

What is laughter yoga?

The premise of laughter yoga is that your body can and knows how to laugh, regardless of what your mind says. In fact, laughter yoga invites you to fake it till you make it. A popular movement brought about in 1995 — laughter yoga combines breathing exercises with laughter. 

A common misconception here is that laughter yoga is specific to older generations and only popular with senior citizens. In fact, India is home to the largest youth population globally, but nearly 23 per cent of them suffer from a mental health disorder. Considering this, it is important to note that laughter yoga can benefit all age groups, not just older people. It aims to cultivate joy, nurture your inner child and help you let go of daily stressors. 

Blog quote

I discovered that scientifically, your body and your brain cannot differentiate between natural laughter, if you laugh for the sake of laughing, or even if you are pretending to laugh just like ha ha ha. So my mind knows that I'm pretending, but my body does not. So, based on this idea, we thought we could create laughter as a form of exercise.

Dr Madan Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga

Who discovered laughter yoga?

Dr Madan Kataria, the founder of laughter yoga, started this movement due to his own high levels of stress, “I discovered laughter yoga way back in 1995 when I was undergoing a lot of stress because with my medical practice and with a health magazine, which I was editing, it was very stressful, and I was looking for something to de-stress myself. I tried several things, but in March 1995, it occurred to me that why not write an article about laughter is the best medicine?”

From here, laughter yoga indeed took off, “We started the first laughter club by telling jokes in the beginning. And we were only five people. Within one week's time, 55 people joined in. And it was so good to laugh. But after about ten days, we ran out of good jokes, and most of the jokes were repetitions. So people asked me to stop. I said, okay, give me one day, and I'll find some way. How can we laugh without jokes? So I discovered that scientifically, your body and your brain cannot differentiate between natural laughter or even if you do voluntary laughter even if you laugh for the sake of laughing, even if you are pretending to laugh just like ha ha ha. So my mind knows that I'm pretending, but my body does not. So based on this idea, we thought we could create laughter as a form of exercise.” 

How does laughter yoga help?

Laughter yoga is used as a remedy for psychological and physical ailments. Despite being forceful,  the benefits of laughter therapy are vast. It can help reduce stress, uplift your mood, strengthen your immune system and boost energy levels. Laughing promotes optimism and positivity, reducing stress levels and encouraging a healthier lifestyle. 

As a combination of laughter and breathing, laughter yoga helps with stress management. It allows for a greater oxygen uptake, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s natural relaxation system. 

Blog quote

Laughter yoga is suitable for all for all age groups. But what you see in India is people laughing in the park in the morning. Mostly, they are seniors. But younger people need more laughter now. Yeah, they think that they are laughing a lot, but they are not. So I think every age group needs it.

Dr Madan Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga

Dr Madan highlights how laughter yoga is for everyone: “Laughter yoga is suitable for all age groups. But what you see in India is people laughing in the park in the morning. Mostly, they are seniors. Actually, seniors benefit most from laughter yoga. Because when you grow older, you are hardly laughing! So this is how it is. Because when you are after the age of 50 or 60, we have got so many illnesses, sicknesses, etc.”

He emphasises the need for laughter in the younger generation, “But if you go to Europe, America, or Canada, they're all a lot younger, in the middle age group. Last year, we introduced laughter yoga in university schools and colleges. And actually, younger people need more laughter now. Yeah, they think that they are laughing a lot, but they are not. So I think every age group needs it. We also introduced laughter yoga to children in schools.”

What are the long-term benefits of laughter yoga?

Regarding long-term benefits, laughter does more than just uplift your mood. Laughing releases “happy” hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Long-term and consistent laughing ensures a steady flow of positive emotions through the release of these hormones. Furthermore, laughter is said to suppress stress hormones like cortisol. These effects of laughter yoga are linked to a better mood, reduced pain, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and lower stress levels and rates of depression.

Laughter yoga also fosters better and healthier interpersonal relationships and is linked to feelings of safety and security, allowing for more relaxation.

 Keep on laughing

Laughter yoga has been growing in popularity, more so since the pandemic and the lockdowns. As its core principle dictates, it's a method of taking yourself less seriously. But the health benefits of laughter yoga go far beyond; it’s about being mindful, staying in the present and eventually getting a real laugh out of you. While there is a need for more research on laughter yoga, we can positively state that its practice has almost no downsides.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr B.S. Mahesh - Clinical Psychologist


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