I first became intrigued with the possibility of using laughter as a healing therapy for my MS in the summer of 2008. I had stumbled across several articles reporting on how beneficial laughter is to our well-being. Digging deeper, I discovered an exercise regimen called Laughter Yoga. The premise was this: One could attend a laughter class and after laughing for one hour, emerge feeling euphoric.
It made sense to me. Why wouldn’t I feel fantastic after an hour of laughing? That fall, I attended Laughter Yoga classes regularly at a nearby yoga studio. The classes were a lot of fun and I always felt extremely blissful afterward. It became clear to me that laughter is a powerful force, simple yet profound, and I wanted to share this gift with others. So I received my certification as a Laughter Yoga teacher. As a teacher, I am able to train and certify future Laughter Yoga leaders.
What is Laughter Yoga?
Laughter Yoga combines laughter with yogic breathing exercises. A revolutionary idea that has spread globally at an astounding speed, it is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, a doctor and visionary inMumbai,India.
Dr. Kataria devised simple exercises using child-like playfulness, eye contact, and chanting “ho-ho-ha-ha-ha.” A session begins with simulated laughter which soon turns into real laughter. Through Laughter Yoga there is no need to rely on comedy, jokes, or sense of humor to reap the benefits of laughter. It is based on the theory that our bodies can’t differentiate between real and fake laughter; just performing the physical act of laughing is enough to send our healing hormones into maximum overdrive.
Dr. Kataria launched the first laughter club with only five people on March 13, 1995. It is now a worldwide movement. Today, Laughter Yoga is practiced in more than 65 countries at thousands of Laughter Clubs. Laughter Yoga is an enabler and can be done sitting or standing. It allows people of all ages and physical abilities to laugh and play together. It is being used in cancer centers, MS support groups and camps, senior centers, schools, prisons, nursing homes, business corporations, and any place where people wish to gather and experience the benefits of laughter.
Laughter Yoga and My MS
During my time as a Laughter Yoga leader and teacher, I’ve had the enormous pleasure of seeing and experiencing some pretty amazing things come from laughing. I have connected with people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other diseases, and witnessed smiles spread across faces that had been void of expression other than a scowl.
MS entered my life in 1997. I deal with spasticity, balance, fatigue, and heaviness in my legs. Recently I had the opportunity to put my knowledge and training in laughter to the test when I experienced an exacerbation of my symptoms. I had many stress factors in my life at the time and had fallen behind several weeks with my weekly injection of Avonex®. My usual symptoms amplified, my legs became numb from the waist down, and I intermittently experienced days of feeling fatigued and depressed.
I had to take action. I removed all stress from my life and began laughing – all the time. That meant plenty of rest, watching numerous comedy shows, nixing all depressing news and dramas and leading a Laughter Yoga class. The exacerbation quickly retreated, hastening my recovery.
These days, I laugh much more and a lot louder than I used to. The most incredible benefit of laughter is that the more often we laugh, the greater developed our sense of humor becomes. And when we carry a lot of humor in our hearts, we become more outgoing, tolerant, caring, and loving.
How to Find Ways to Laugh More in Your Life
There are many ways to bring more laughter and joy into your life. Start by spending more time doing the things that make you laugh and feel happy. Limit the amount of negative influences coming into your head.
I encourage you to try an experiment: put on a laughter filter for two days. Allow only positive upbeat influences – watch comedies, read humorous stories or comics, listen to music and sing, play with a pet or child. Laugh off moments of stress by simply saying, “ha, ha, ha” at things that make you upset. It may be fake laughter at the time and seem absurd, but it has the amazing ability to de-stress the moment. After two days, evaluate how you are feeling. Has laughter made a difference for you?
There are also many Laughter Yoga videos available on YouTube. You can elevate your mood by simply watching others laugh. To find a Laughter Yoga class near you go to www.laughteryoga.org. But you don’t have to wait until you find a group to get started. It’s as easy as “ho-ho-ha-ha-ha!”
Mandie Navarro is the proud mother of two college students. She is the owner of Universal Laughter Yoga, providing laughter therapy for anyone who wants to experience more joy in their life. You can visit her website to find out more about the benefits of laughter at: www.universallaughteryoga.com.
(Last reviewed 7/2011)