Laughter is the best medicine. This has been said time and time again. Over the years much evidence has been documented as to the health benefits of laughter. These include reduced stress by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lowering peptide levels; pain reduction through the increase in the production of endorphins, the feel-good hormones; boosting of the immune system with fast increases in levels of anti-viral and anit-infection cells, as well as in cells that fight cancer.
Laughter increases the levels of immunoglobulin IgA and IgG which are the first line of defense protecting against viral infections such as coughs and colds. Laughter provides an excellent cardio and abdominal workout (one minute deep belly laughter can be the equivalent of 10 minutes of rowing or jogging – Dr. W. Fry). Laughter increases circulation to the digestive and lymphatic systems, flushing wastes products from the organs and cells while bringing in freshly oxygenated blood. Laughter promotes playful behavior which in turns aids the development of social and problem solving skills as well as improving emotional intelligence. Uninhibited laughter can allow cathartic release of blocked emotions stored in the body, allowing for life-changing transformations. And… the facial exercise of laughing flushes and tones the skin, making practitioners look younger. Wow! And we are each born with the nascent ability to laugh.
So, if laughter is so good, why are we not laughing more? Studies show that children laugh 400 times daily, whereas adults laugh about 15 times. Children laugh with their whole bodies, adults tend to be much more subdued. As adults, most of our laughter is humour based. We laugh at jokes, television and movies, or the foibles of others. If one is stressed or ill, or suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s or mental health challenges, humor might be a distant star. Or if one has been entrained throughout life to be good (translate quiet), our expression of laughter may have gone into retreat.
Enter Laughter Yoga and social laughter clubs. This unique method of accessing our natural laughter was developed by a medical doctor, Dr. Madan Kataria from Mumbai, India, in March of 1995. Since that time laughter clubs, training and seminars have been spreading around the globe. At recent count, there are more than 6,000 free laughter clubs in over 60 countries in the world. One of the newest being the Parksville Community Park Laughter Club which now meets every Sunday at noon, near the beach gazebo.
Laughter Yoga is unconditional laughter, stimulated through a series of gentle stretches and laughter exercises which engender playfulness by incorporating role play.
From a body-mind perspective, the body doesn’t know if it’s true or not (as when you think of something that happened a long time ago, or something that hasn’t happened yet and experience a physical and/or emotional response to the thought). Essentially, in a laughter yoga session, we fake it until we make it. The laughter exercises move the laughter muscles of the abdomen and belly. The voice makes the sounds – ho ho hahaha to start… And voila, real laughter bubbles up. Most often Laughter Yoga is practiced in a group for the additional benefit of contagion. Laughter is infectious and contagious. When someone else starts really laughing, we are pretty hard-wired to join in. Mirror neurons in the brain cause us to experience the emotions of people around us. When we are with laughing people, we experience their laughter, thus freeing our own.
The yogic aspect of this method, is Pranayama.or breathwork, of which a primary characteristic is a longer exhalation than inhalation. This rids the lungs of residual air which is then replaced with fresh air containing a higher level of oxygen. Oxygen is the single most important factor in living a disease-free and energetic life.
Doreen Bakstad is a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher having trained with Dr. Kataria in Mumbai, January 2009.
If you would like to experience the joy of laughter and the health benefits, join us on Sundays for Parksville Community Park Laughter Club, or call 250-248-2793 for other events. Email firstname.lastname@example.org