Want to feel sunshine when it’s raining and laugh when you feel grey? We sure do! We all know how good laughing makes us feel, but did you know that our body can’t tell the difference between pretend and genuine laughter? So you can make up laughter and get the same ‘feel-good chemistry’! That’s what Laughter Yoga is all about.
It’s based on the finding that as just as feelings create physical expressions also physical expressions create feelings. Back in the 70’s they put the laughter facial muscles to the test and subjects with a pencil clenched wide in their teeth found, in contrast to a neutral expression, comic books funnier and pain reduced!
There’s even a name for it – Gelotology – it is the study of laughter and its effects on the body, from a psychological and physiological perspective. Among them, research has proved that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc.) in the blood, can help alleviate pain, and can assist heart and lung rehabilitation. But hey we know – it feels good.
So how do we get more of this? Of course there’s You Tube and Funniest Home Videos, but you don’t need jokes or comedy to just laugh, anyone can fake it and they’ll make it – literally, all those great effects. That’s what Dr. Madan Kataria a Physician from Mumbai, India discovered when the jokes ran out in the Laughter Club he started in 1995.
So he created Laughter Yoga, a combination of Unconditional Laughter with Yogic Breathing (Pranayama), where “Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.”
We searched it out in Zurich and found Fabiola Leon – fresh from graduating in India with Dr Kataria. As a Life Coach she said she had been looking for the answer to lightening up the struggle her clients took through their blocks towards their goals and is so excited to have found it that she wants to get everybody laughing into more graceful growth.
We met a few of the people after her group: Paul said he’d been a shy laugher and wanted to feel free enough to laugh large in public and already after only two of times he was. He even felt the workout in his tummy muscles after. Luis with his huge smile said he woke up laughing and wants to share it with others because it’s contagious, it was. One woman begged for another group sooner, as she had been nervous and unwell, and after the session she could breathe again.
Christian Hablützel has been helping Zurich laugh for more than 7 years and has done just about all the trainings in Laughter & Humour there are. As a Body Worker and Therapist, he discovered laughter as the perfect solution to lighten the heaviness accumulated in working constantly with people and their problems. Hearing that children naturally laugh around 400 times a day and adults are lucky to make it 15 times convinced him that if we only add to that number the world will be a happier and healthier place.
Apart from his other groups and trainings for private and companies he runs a monthly ‘Joy Dance’ that starts with Laughter Yoga and becomes a night of healthy food and dancing. We joined in. Ok the exercises felt funny at first but once you get laughing with everybody, nothing else matters. The creases in our cheeks and the warm fuzzies lasted all the way home. And since then we’ve been finding more ways to giggle each day. Despite the rain!
Find out more about Laughter Yoga and how to try it out . . .
Ps. Our favourite exercise? At the end when we all held hands in a circle on our bellies imagining we were skydiving and sending our laughing over the world.
Article contributed by Zuri Girl, Kaye Llewelyn. Australian surfer far from the sea, she can be caught gazing wistfully out at the lake, but mostly find her writing about being bold (being you) on her blog, painting or looking for adventures around Zurich on her bike, with the red spotted seat.
Laughter Yoga Photo Credits: Fabiola Leon
Slideshow Photo Credit: Fabiola Leon & Laughter Yoga University