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Yoga with a laugh

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | Sports | September 21st, 2009



Looking to add more satisfaction to your everyday routine? Yoga, in the form of laughter, may be just what the doctor ordered. Rapidly changing the way people ease tension in their lives, laughter yoga is making waves among those of us who live life in the fast (and stressful) lane.

Based on a simple, yet profound concept, laughter yoga combines exercise with a sense of humour to provide revolutionary health benefits to the mind, body, and soul.

Envisioned by Indian physician, Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, laughter yoga began as nothing more than a recreational club, in the spring of 1995. With only five members at its inception, the “belly laugh” workout has since grown to the status of having more than 6000 social laughter clubs, in 60 plus countries, across the globe.

As explained on the founder's website, its premise is quite clever: “Laughter is simulated as an exercise in a group but with eye contact and playfulness, developing into real and contagious laughter. It is meant to be a combination of laughing and yoga breathing, in order to bring more oxygen to the body and the brain. Laughter yoga is based on the assumption that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter, and that their physiological and psychological benefits are thus identical.”

The connection between yoga and laughter comes from deep within the core. As one laughs, one's abdominals rapidly contract and expand, in effect tightening the underlying belly muscles. In turn, this causes an increase in one's oxygen intake which works to effectively flush toxins from one's body, and one's bloodstream.

According to Duncan Cook, a laughter yoga practitioner, there are many benefits, beyond the physiological ones, to getting involved with this workout regime. Aside from its ability to bring buffness to your bod, strengthen your immune system, rejuvenate and heal the production of T, B, and NK cells, and even potentially diminish the signs of aging on your face, “contact with others in a laughter session offers people a place where they can be as they are, rather than how they should be. This is especially beneficial in a societal culture where constraints are placed on individuals to perform or behave in particular way[s].”

Aubrey Brownne, an 83 year old retired Londoner, and laughter yoga enthusiast, is certainly convinced of the exercise's merits: “It is the best part of each and every day for me [and] doing these exercises makes me feel young again and like I can do anything…all I have to do is smile and my troubles seem meaningless.”

In Dr. Kataria's view, “one minute of mirthful laugher is equivalent to a 10-minute cardio workout on a rowing machine.” To this, Cook adds that a, “laughter yoga session can [also be regarded as a form of] meditation, wherein the mind is allowed to rest for a period of time. This is important for any system - human or otherwise [and] this contributes to calming the mind stream, in turn leaving space for greater awareness to take place.”

For more information on how you can participate in a FREE laughter yoga session, please visit www.joyoflaughteryoga.ca for details. On a local note, The London Laughter Club generally meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month between the hours of 7-8 PM. The meetings take place at St. Joseph's Health Care Centre. Bringing your own bottle of water is highly recommended as the exercises are sure to get your heart rate (among other things) going.

Benefits of Laughter Yoga:
- Reduces stress
- Improves morale
- Boosts productivity
- Reinforces teamwork
- Sparks creativity
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