We’ve been laughing a lot this week. Well, who am I kidding? We laugh a lot every week. But this week it reminded me of a post I did way back in the day on Laughter Yoga. If you could use a good laugh, enjoy this post along with some updated video clips from yours truly, and from the founder of Laughter Yoga himself, Dr. Madan Kataria. He’s a riot in his own right! Without further ado, on with the blog...
Once upon a time as I was practicing some yoga, I decided to focus on a little section of B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga that presents variations of Salabhasana, or locust pose, and Dhanurasana, or bow pose. All was going according to plan until I came to this variation:
"Well, how hard could that be?" I thought. You see, reading the instruction I found that I was supposed to take Dhanurasana and then simply roll onto one side, roll back up to center, then roll to the other side. Right. I'm always up for a challenge, though, so I decided to charge ahead. Once in Dhanurasana, I try to roll easily to the right. Nothing happens. So I start rocking side to side, building momentum to roll over that frontal hip bone that keeps putting on the brakes. Rocking a little more, and suddenly…I’m going over! And over, and over, in slow motion, almost like a giant tree falling in the woods. Falling, falling, until…. BOOM! I land on my right side with a resounding THUD. Instantaneously, laughter bursts through. Laughter so pure and hard and deep that before I know it, I've got tears streaming down my face, snot pouring from my nose, and I can hardly breathe. I haven't experienced an uncontrollable, riotous laughing fit from my yoga like that ever before. And it feels so good!
Now, I love to laugh. So this got me thinking about "Laughter Yoga." I've heard a little about it here and there, and even hints of its purported health benefits. Yet, I believed it to be a very small, obscure facet of modern yoga that didn’t serve much purpose. As it turns out, I was hilariously wrong. Laughter has a direct effect on our blood vessels, much the same effect as jogging, and can burn up to 40 calories (Dr. Michael Miller in the National Geographic video below). Moreover, laughter, even when faked, helps to release endorphins, lower blood pressure, cortisol levels (stress hormone), increase oxygen levels in your body, and, of course, boost positive emotions. Laughter Yoga has been studied in workplaces in the United States, Australia, South Africa, and Japan, with results showing significant performance improvement among those who participate in the exercises, even retaining that improvement at the 60-90 day follow up mark (Dr. Madan Kataria’s Tedx Talk). Watch the video below to learn more about just how great laughter is at helping us to be happier and healthier.
This comes as such a poignant reminder of the beautifully diverse tools that yoga can offer us to help heal ourselves and move forward on a positive trajectory in our lives. Learning to laugh even when you have to fake it, even if you feel you have nothing to laugh about is really the heart of what yoga is trying to teach us. Laughter is a form of communication, both with the world around us and with ourselves. If we can face our suffering in this existence and work to discover our pure joy within, regardless of our circumstances, then we have found the ability to shape our existence, to choose our reactions and therefore our outcomes. It is then that no misfortunes can overcome us, and we will be able to find joy even in the darkest places of our lives.
It's so simple that we could overlook it and take it for granted: laughter is good for us! Our free video of the week is of course a collection of laughter exercises that will have you rolling for sure. Be sure to tell us in the comments which of these laughter exercises got you cracking up the most!
Mentioned in this week's episode of The MOJO Show:
Scott's Laughter Yoga Method:
The Miracle Morning: