Laughter Yoga (Hasyayoga) is a form of yoga employing self-triggered laughter. The "laughter" is physical in nature, and does not necessarily involve humor or comedy. The concept was developed by Indian guru Jiten Kohi. It was made popular as an exercise routine developed by Indian physician Madan Kataria, who writes about the practice in his book Laugh For No Reason.
Laughter is easily stimulated in a group when combined with eye contact, childlike playfulness and laughter exercises. Fake laughter quickly becomes real. Laughter Yoga brings more oxygen to the body and brain by incorporating yogic breathing which results in deep diaphragmatic breathing. Laughter Yoga is based on the concept that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter – physiologically and psychologically the benefits are identical.
In the mid-1990's Laughter Yoga was practiced in the early mornings, primarily by groups of older men in open parks. Later, a more formalized version was created and popularized as "Laughter Clubs".
Madan Kataria's first Laughter Yoga Club began on 13 March 1995 in Mumbai. Beginning with five people in a local public park, the concept has rapidly spread worldwide. As of 2009, over 6000 Laughter Clubs had been opened in 60 countries and many are still active.
Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine of unconditional laughter – sometimes combined with yogic breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can laugh without relying on humor, jokes or comedy.
Laughter is initially simulated as a physical exercise while maintaining eye contact with others in the group and promoting childlike playfulness. In most cases this soon leads to real and contagious laughter.
Science has proved that the body cannot differentiate between simulated and real laughter. Laughter Yoga is the only technique that allows adults to achieve sustained hearty laughter without involving cognitive thought. It bypasses the intellectual systems that normally act as a brake on natural laughter.
Laughter Yoga sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques which include stretching, chanting, rythmic clapping and body movement. These help break down inhibitions and develop feelings of childlike playfulness.
Breathing exercises are used to prepare the lungs for laughter, followed by a series of ‘laughter exercises’ that combine the method of acting and visualization techniques with playfulness.
These exercises, when combined with the strong social dynamics of group behavior, lead to prolong and hearty unconditional laughter.
Laughter exercises are interspersed with breathing exercises.
Scientifically it has been proved that twenty minutes of laughter is sufficient to develop full physiological benefits.
A Laughter Yoga session may finish with ‘laughter meditation’ (or ’free laughter’). This is a session of unstructured laughter without instructions whereby participants sit or lie down and allow natural laughter to flow from within us like a fountain. This is a powerful experience that often leads to a healthy emotional catharsis and also a feeling of release and joyfulness that can last for days. This can be followed by guided relaxation exercises. You can hear this here
Why is it called Laughter Yoga?
The primary reason Madan Kataria named this technique “Laughter Yoga” was because he incorporated Pranayama, an ancient yogic breathing with laughter exercises. This has a powerful and immediate effect on our physiology and has been used for more than four thousand years to influence the body, mind and emotions.
From a medical point of view, the most important component of breath is oxygen. Dr. Otto Warburg, President, Institute of Cell Physiology and Nobel Prize Winner (Dr. Warburg is the only person ever to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine twice and be nominated for a third), said about the importance of oxygen:
“Deep breathing techniques increase oxygen to the cells and are the most important factors in living a disease-free and energetic life.”
- ^ Kataria, Madan (2002), Laugh For No Reason (2 ed.), Mumbai, India: Madhuri International, ISBN 9788187529019
- World Laughter Day
- Official Website: Hasyayoga Kendra Delhi
- Official Website: Dr Kataria School Of Laughter Yoga
- American School Of Laughter Yoga, a comprehensive resource on Laughter Yoga
- Laughter for Africa, a comprehensive resource on Laughter Yoga in Africa
- Seniors Laughter Yoga in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
- What's So Funny?, article in Yoga Journal
- FRENCH institute of laughter yoga, laughter yoga training
- , Laughter Yoga Training and training webinars
- Frederiksberg Latterklub, listen to laughterclub laughter.