A good laugh makes us feel wonderful. It releases tension and gives us energy. Best of all, it’s infectious!
These links look more closely at how laughter can be good for our health:
Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center examined the laughter habits of 300 people — half with heart disease and half without. They found that the people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh at certain situations! Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, speculates as to what might be going on:
“We don’t know yet why laughing protects the heart, but we know that mental stress is associated with impairment of the endothelium, the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. This can cause a series of inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries and ultimately to a heart attack.”¹
Photo Credit: Ernst Moeksis
Yes, laughter and yoga have been combined! Aside from having fun, Laughter Yoga devotees believe the health benefits to be numerous, ranging from increased immunity and self-confidence to decreased stress, blood pressure and pain. They say the studies back up their assertions. Other are more skeptical, saying that laughter is hard to measure and maybe people who are healthier tend to laugh more because they feel better.
Given the side effects (smiling, feeling relaxed, connecting with others), I vote for laughter!
Laughter yoga has grown in popularity since Dr. Madan Kataria first started laughter classes in India in 1995. Dr. Kataria was so taken with the health benefits of laughter that he decided to combine yoga and laughing. There are currently more than 5000 laughter classes worldwide. This link gives a glimpse of a senior laughter yoga class in Maryland. Be sure to watch the video!
The American School of Laughter Yoga proclaims that “laughter is not a joke.” They say:
Laughter releases endorphins, giving us the ‘feel good factor’
Acts as aerobic exercise and is like ‘internal jogging’
Unleashes inhibitions, breaks down barriers
Great team building tool encourages better communication
Helps boost our immune system which helps us resist disease
Tones muscles, improves respiration and circulation
Encourages positive thinking and creativity
Relaxes the whole body by reducing stress and tension²
John Cleese learns from Dr. Madan Kataria that laughter helps relieve the negative effects of stress while it increases immunity. According to Dr. Kataria, fake (forced) laughter causes the body to release the same endorphins as real laughter. Laughter yoga classes often start out with forced laughter that turns into real laughter.
Dr. Kataria teaches laughter yoga to diverse groups of people. Even Indian prisoners are allowed to use laughter classes as therapy, to help them manage anger and depression.
Laughter yoga is offered to cancer patients at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. It incorporates stretching, breathing, clapping and, of course, laughter. There is no need to be witty or have a sense of humor: Talking and joking aren’t encouraged. Even those with no desire to laugh spontaneously find that fake laughter helps.
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1) Laughter is the “Best Medicine” for Your Heart, by Michelle W. Murray. University of Maryland Medical Center Feature Stories: July 14, 2009.