Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

ou’ve heard the old saying, “laughter is the best medicine.” Well, that saying has taken on a whole new meaning after a doctor from India, Madan Kataria, known as the “Guru of Giggling,” developed laughter yoga in 1995. He discovered it didn’t matter if laughter was real or simulated because people would breathe, take in more oxygen, and improve their physical and psychological health.

Laughter yoga has become a worldwide phenomenon in the last few years. It’s popular because there are no limitations or restrictions as to who can participate. This has resulted in many senior centers offering it, and classes include everyone from dementia patients to people afflicted with limited movement to people suffering from chronic pain.

Laughter yoga simulates the type of breathing done in regular yoga because it requires gentle thoughtful breathing. In turn, this gentle thoughtful breathing is interspersed with stretching exercises, clapping, and chants of Ho Ho Ha Ha, and for twenty or thirty minutes practitioners can forget their worries, aches, and pains.

Everyone is getting into the act and enjoying laughter. For instance, corporations, such as Cisco Systems have used laughter yoga in seminars to get employees relaxed and to lighten the mood. Participants of these corporate laughter yoga sessions claim it has changed their life, and the laughter teachers claim that by acting funny on the outside, you get funny on the inside because “in time fake laughter becomes genuine.”

Medical institutions are also realizing the therapeutic benefits of laughter. According to Dr. William Fry, professor emeritus at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, ‚ÄúStudies indicate that participating in laughter therapy is beneficial in terms of disease control,” and, so, laughter is being used to treat patients with immune problems, chronic pain, or mood disorders. Prescriptions for “I Love Lucy,” “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” or “The Dick Van Dyke Show” are common. The medical community has also gone one step farther because now there are “certified laughter therapists” and “laughter yoga leaders” who help people heal and who prescribe jokes, humor, and silliness.

The health benefits of laughter are many. For instance, it significantly increases a person’s human growth hormone and T-cell antibodies, which in turn boosts immunity and fights off infection. Humor also increases levels of beta-endorphins by 27 percent according to a 2006 study, and because beta-endorphins relieve pain, chronic pain sufferers are better able to deal with their pain. Laughter also reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol, so a person experiences less tension and stress, which results in happier moods and an improved outlook because bad feelings are replaced with good ones.

If you are interested in learning more about Laughter Yoga, Dr. Madan Kataria has written a book titled Laugh For No Reason.You can also get more information about Laughter Yoga by visiting the Laughter Yoga website. If you are interested in participating in a Laughter Club in your area, click here, or if you would like to train with the master and become a certified laughter yoga leader click here for the 2008 schedule.

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