Updated: Feb 16
Laughter is considered to be the shortest distance between two people. Certain experts and yoga practitioners have found real benefit to the art of laughing, and it is no wonder that Laughter Yoga is a modern day practice that may be one of the most revolutionary in ages.
Laughter Yoga, also known as hasyayoga, is a practice that involves prolonged, voluntary laughing. The modern day exercise derives from the idea that forced positive energy can create real positivity through your laugh, and what is a more powerful positive energy force than laughing?
The concept was made popular in the mid-1990s by Indian family physician Dr Madan Kataria, as he wanted to make this pratice more accessible and easy to understand for everyone.
We can easily see how a simple smile can change the atmosphere of a workspace. That kind of positive energy is infectious, and the best part about it is how simple it is to execute.
Laughter is even more powerful and infectious.
"When you start laughing, your chemistry changes, your physiology changes, your chances to experience happiness are much greater," Dr Madan Kataria once said. "Laughter Yoga is nothing more than prepping the body and mind for happiness."
Dr Kataria believes there are two types of laughter. One that is from the body, and one that is from the mind. Adults tend to laugh from the mind, because we use judgments and thinking to determine whether or not something is funny. Children, on the hand, laugh significantly more than adults. That is because they do so from the body. They laugh for no reason, and they laugh the entire time they play.
"Laughter Yoga is based on cultivating your childlike playfulness. We all have a child inside us wanting to laugh, wanting to play," he said.
Learning how to belly laugh allows us to reenter that childhood state of aloofness and become carefree. Stress, anxiety, and depression have overtaken hundreds of millions of people around the world, and it is strongly believed that something like Laughter Yoga can be a genuine treatment for these mental states. Laughter has been found to have an anesthetic effect in patients suffering from severe pain, and other research has found that laughter reduces stress hormones and may help prevent heart disease.
Can Fake Laughing Really Help?
One of the mysteries behind Laughter Yoga is that it does not initiate any laughing or give any humorous reason to do so, but it requires the one practicing to force themselves to laugh and embrace that child within.
One practitioner even said, "The mind does not know that we're faking it."
This is why fake laughter—laughter that is humorless, laughter that is forced—has the same beneficial effects as genuine laughter. Even though a really good joke can be more stimulating for the mind, the effects on the body are largely the same. This is a large reason why Laughter Yoga was born.
The idea is simply to teach the disciplinary action of forced laughter, no different than forcing oneself to exercise even if they are uninspired. By practicing to belly laugh, the mind can learn to become more relaxed and positive and can enter into that childlike state that allowed us to laugh for no reason when we were young.
Where Can I Learn More About Laughter Yoga?
Laughter Yoga clubs can be found in 53 countries around the world, so the likelihood of one being around you are quite high. But if you are interested in the history or finding some guides, you can go to Dr Kataria's main page LaughterYoga.org. It has plenty of resources and can even help you to find a place that practices in your area.
There are even plenty of tutorials online that can teach certain exercises that can easily be attempted at home in your own space. The point of Laughter Yoga is not to stress you out, so please feel free to practice however you want and whenever you want.
Just remember to laugh and let the body reward you with its many blessings by doing so.