Laughter Yoga can cure what ails you

Sheryl Nadler
Shine On Blogger
Shine On

Have you ever found yourself confounded by a highly stressful problem at work or consumed by rage at another person's driving? Would you consider laughing it off? Practitioners of a particular type of yoga think it could probably help.

Laughter Yoga International, which combines laughter exercises with yogic deep breathing and stretching, was founded in Mumbai, India in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria, and now claims 600 clubs in 60 countries, reports Reuters. Canada alone claims 28 clubs from coast to coast.

"When I heard about Laughter Yoga, I thought, oh wow — this is really up my alley," says Kathryn Kimmins, a Hamilton-based Certified Laughter Yoga Leader. "I'd never done yoga before, but I liked the concept of the laughter part. I was getting to tap into my child-like spirit and I had to be silly and goofy and all the things I love to do."

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Kimmins compares the laughter exercises to mini-skits, wherein the participants act out a scenario that leads to simulated laughter. She cites chatting on the phone with someone who just told a bad joke, as an example. Participants pretend to laugh and soon, the simulated laughter feels so silly it leads to real laughter. Real laughter leads to a decrease in stress, which leads to a decrease in anxiety, high blood pressure, and so on.

The Toronto branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association endorses Laughter Yoga on their website, encouraging visitors to try a class.

"The therapeutic value of laughter has been thoroughly and scientifically researched in the past 40 years, and its physical benefits proven beyond the shadow of a doubt," says the CMHA.

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"A woman who comes to one of my classes told me she suffered with depression for many years," says Kimmins. "She felt that Laughter Yoga taught her how to laugh again and how to be happy again."

How does the yoga part fit in? Kimmins explains that laughing for a long period of time can put stress on the body, so laughing periods are broken up with breathing and stretching exercises.

"I do it every day," says Kimmins. "When I wake up and I can't straighten my back out to full height, I laugh until I straighten out. It might take me a few hours, but ya, I laugh all the time. I end a lot of conversations with laughter. It's just what I do. I always have."

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