Health: Laughter Yoga?

Laughter yoga: the thought alone makes you smile. But wrap your Zen brain around this idea: preliminary research has shown that laughing is good for your health.

If that’s the case, count us in.

“There are … several good reasons to conclude that laughter is effective as an intervention,” explains William B. Strean in an article entitled “Laughter Prescription,” found in the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. Library of Medicine. “Although the evidence … demonstrating laughter’s benefits could be stronger, virtually all studies of laughter and health indicate positive results. Similarly, there are almost no negative side effects or undesirable ramifications associated with laughter as an intervention.”

So, what about this idea of coupling yoga with laughter?

According to Gail Spirit Sky, a longtime Bexley resident and yoga instructor, laughter yoga was founded on a whim 22 years ago. Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician in India, was concerned that patients he thought should be feeling better were not faring well. Meanwhile, he was delving into scientific evidence about how laughter can positively impact a person’s mental and physical health.

Around 4 a.m. one morning he had a sudden revelation about how to instantly test the findings of the studies. Three hours later, he gathered four people, including his wife, in a nearby park. They stood in a circle as one person at a time moved to the center to tell a joke or a funny story. Throughout the next 10 days they continued the activity—the small group attracted passersby who contributed to the joke marathon while the laughter multiplied and people’s stress was relieved.

After 10 days, “they ran out of jokes and then decided they didn’t need jokes, just laughter,” says Sky, a laughter yoga leader. Kataria didn’t realize it at the time, but he had just launched the world’s first laughter club.

The yoga aspect of laughter yoga is the brainchild of Kataria’s wife, Madhuri. A yoga teacher, the co-founder of laughter yoga realized that deep breathing is essential to improving oxygen flow in the body, so her contributions focused on that element.

Sky reports there are more than 6,000 laughter clubs in 60 countries throughout the world. The only club in Central Ohio celebrated its seventh anniversary in late September. When Sky leads the monthly laughter club meeting, the retired teacher’s decades of teaching third grade shine through.

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