You’ve Heard of Yoga, but Did You Know It Could Be Funny?
The ancient art of Yoga has been practiced for as many as two thousand years, but you’ve never seen it practiced this way. The ancient Indian discipline, which evolved into a Western exercise phenomenon a few decades ago, has taken on an entirely new form—one that has its practitioners doubled over.
Laughter Yoga and Its Origin
In 1995, Dr. Madan Kataria formed the first Laughter Yoga group in Mumbai. He hypothesized that group laughter, along the lines of the laughing in this video, has health benefits regardless of its original sincerity. Exercises typically begin with group bonding through clapping and laughing drills. The workouts can be conducted a variety of ways — laughing stretches, laughing meditation, and so-called “playful exercises” are typical fare — but all sessions are intended to create a strong group dynamic through a shared chuckle. “The laughter session strives to cultivate childlike playfulness during Laughter Yoga exercises,” proclaims Dr. Kataria.
Does Artificial Laughter Have the Same Health Benefits as Organic Laughter?
Laughter, as we have pointed out, has been shown to have myriad health benefits. But the laughter in Laughter Yoga, importantly, is not as organic as one’s giggling may be at a humorous article or a friend’s witty observation. In Laughter Yoga, the clients are simply laughing at laughter, releasing inhibitions through somewhat irrational silliness. Is this type of cackling different from yucks of a more natural origin?
Dr. Kataria says that for our body’s purposes, all laughter is created equal. A Fairleigh Dickinson University study he quotes on his website reads, “Forced laughter is a powerful, readily available and cost-free way for many adults to regularly boost their mood and psychological wellbeing (sic).” (More on the study can also be found here.)
Yet despite these potential flaws, Laughter Yoga undeniably helped people the world over. Today, there are over 6,000 LY groups represented in more than 60 countries. Its practitioners tout the relieving benefits. Oprah Winfrey’s “resident skeptic” Reggie Wells even said in 2008 that a LY session made him feel as though “A stress lifted from my soul. It lifted from my body.” It may be whacky, but if you can let loose for even half an hour, Laughter Yoga might just leave you feeling rejuvenated.
Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.