Our lives are subject to super size stress and sometimes that stress leads to disease.
Laughter is the best medicine for stress.
“Not much to laugh about!”, You say? Looking at the world around us I can see your point.
So what Laughter Yoga suggests is that when you laugh a number of processes occurring in your body without your having to think about it.
Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga, calls it a wonderful gift from God, the capacity to laugh. He says laughter is not just amusement or entertainment. Laughter has to come right from within, from one's soul. Laughter becomes more meaningful when it is intended not only to make oneself happy, but also to make others happy. According to Dr. Kataria, this is what is known in Laughter Clubs as the “Spirit of Laughter”. I can personally attest to how lovely the feeling of “out of control” laugh feet to my whole being. It is priceless.
Laughter creates three major changes in your body and mind.
Firstly, breathing is related to our state of mind. Our breathing can become shallow (top of the lungs), faster and irregular. If we are being chased by a tiger it will happen for sure but there are more subtle stresses in our lives that capture our well being and hold it host until we do something to quell the uneasiness. It could have some sort of mood-modifier. Relationships, world events, financial worries or time restraints can crush our attempts to feel better. So our breathing is the first indicator that something is wrong. Sometimes people will even hold their breath when confronted with fear. Our breathing patterns alter drastically and holding our breath will lead to an accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood.
Our sympathetic branch of the autonomous nervous system is so sensitive to carbon levels in the blood it creates mental stress. The residual air in the lungs is replaced during laughter sessions with oxygen-rich air. Carbon dioxide in the lungs is reduced which causes the stress arousal system.
Laughter Yoga is diaphragmatic breathing. Dr. Kataria says, “One of the prime objectives of Laughter Yoga is to learn how to move the diaphragm and shift the awareness of breathing from the chest to the deep abdominal breathing. With the movement of the diaphragm we can bring our emotions under conscious control.”
Secondly, Laughter Yoga changes you mood by elevating your mood state. We are using unconventional laughter that does not rely on humor or comedy, which makes it the EASIEST and SIMPLEST exercise to rejuvenate the body-mind system.
Laughter exercises are ideally suited for young teens as it quickly helps to change the mood state by releasing endorphins, natural opiates that generate feeling of comfort and safety. It helps one to cope with difficult situations and releases pent up emotions through the process of catharsis (ie the process of emerging and thereby providing relief from strong or repressed emotions).
The body has a chemistry laboratory set up to create healing biochemicals. The chemicals produced by the body would be very expensive brain altering substances if you had to buy them. You can make your own brain altering drugs with no cost to you just by laughing. Just 10 minutes of Laughter Yoga produces all your body needs and we do it for 30-45 minutes.
Endorphins, seratonin and dopamine are the chemicals that are elevated. They are the feel good chemicals. The less beneficial chemicals, the cortisol and adrenaline, which we need if a tiger is chasing us, are diminished and your mood is lifted.
Personally, I feel my heart open when I experience laughing with others. It affirms my life and lifts me up. I have to admit there have been times I would have rather gone home and put my tired body on the couch rather than lead a group in laughter. Pete, my husband and co-leader, would agree with me on that one. When we finish a session we both say, “That was so much fun!” and we feel great.
Lastly, Laughter Yoga helps you stay in the present moment, which is critical to well being. When I am remembering a time that felt good I am peaceful. When I am dwelling with a memory that is painful or guilty-ridden I'm learning to recognize it and come back to the present moment, knowing everything is perfect in this moment. This takes practice and being patient with myself.
When I am worried about the future I'm not present to what is happening right now and I am missing it as well. If I'm stuck in fear my body is producing those cortisol and adrenaline chemicals that are stressing my body.
When Pete, and I are doing exercises we are moving from one to another to keep people from getting into their heads so they are present. We tell them “We are here to drive you out of your minds!”. There is no time to be in the past or the future. I am totally present with the person that is in front of me. I do not have to work at it. It is easy. To be present with another person is the highest compliment you can give them and Laughter Yoga makes it so simple. You do not have to think about it.
We also tell our participants that we are all accessing our child-like behavior that is a divine being. So I double-dog dare you to have that child-like playfulness and remember what a divine gift it is to laugh. The side effects are physical, mental and emotional well being.
If you would like to know more about Laughter Yoga you can visit http://laughteryoga.org or http://www.laughteryogaamerica.com . You can search for clubs, classes, research, books or DVDs about the subject.