Monday, December 10, 2007

Laughter Yoga: Just Imagine.......

Amidst the tumult and stress of life and work, we are still managing to continue to promote and practice Laughter Yoga. Just this morning, I visited our local senior center and led a session for two willing and eager participants. Due to sleet and freezing rain, attendance was lower than I would have liked, but even with two people plus myself, we had a laughing good time, released some stress, and spiced our morning with smiles and laughter. Although I had a great deal on my mind and was in no laughing mood when I awoke this morning, following the session I feel invigorated, lighter and much more calm and collected, my facial muscles relaxed and my body much looser.

This evening, we head to a state college halfway across the state to lead two sessions for a credited class in stress management to which we were invited as guest presenters. College students---with high stress and astronomically high risks of substance abuse and suicidality----are in great need of healthy avenues of stress relief, and we are happy to have an opportunity to introduce a skill and a practice which can greatly enhance health and happiness with little effort.

Talking with my two participants this morning, we discussed how laughter sessions could be very efficacious in many venues and situations. Imagine if the members of the United Nations Security Council conducted a Laughter Yoga session prior to their deliberations and decision-making. Imagine if the President and his cabinet were led in laughter meditation prior to discussing plans for war and violence. Imagine if Laughter Yoga was offered every morning in prisons around the world. How would the atmosphere change in those facilities? How would the interactions between guards and inmates be altered? What if every nursing home offered guided laughter to their residents each day?

Laughter has been scientifically studied, and these studies prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that laughter is healthy, even if the laughter is "faked". Forced laughter and authentic laughter actually have the same physiological effects on the body: enhanced immunological function, lowered blood pressure, relaxed skeletal muscles, improved oxygenation, improved blood flow to the vital organs and brain, and the list goes on. Controlled experiments have also shown that blood levels of stress hormones like cortisol are significantly decreased by laughter, and there is no appreciable difference in the effects of "fake" or "real" laughter on such physiological benefits.

Just for fun, please take the time to watch the following YouTube video which portrays John Cleese of Monty Python fame as he travels to India to experience Laughter Yoga first-hand with our teacher, Dr. Madan Kataria. It is three minutes well spent.

Here's to life, and here's to laughter!

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