I’m sure by now most everyone has heard of Laughter Yoga, especially if you are in the mindfulness community.  Let’s explore where, when, why and how this came to be. 

A search on the World Wide Web points to Dr. Madan Kataria as the originator of a laughter club in the mid 1990’s.  This occurred in Mumbai, India.  He began his club based on scientific studies he had been reading regarding the physiological and psychological benefits of laughing.  Dr. Kataria proposed that our bodies don’t know the difference between spontaneous laughter and voluntary laughter.  The health benefits that result in either scenario are the same.  In the process of developing his idea on laughter as a form of medicine, Dr. Kataria had to tweak the exercises in his laughter club in order that the inspiration for laughing was not based on inappropriate material and also so that he didn’t run out of ways to inspire laughter. 

 In working through the initial concepts of using laughter to help induce the corresponding benefits to our bodies, Dr. Kataria was able to move forward with a legitimate set of exercises.  And the idea took off!

There is thinking, too, that the combination of laughing exercises with breath work (pranayama) serves to enhance the benefits from both practices.  Benefits include a reduction in stress-inducing hormone production, lower blood pressure and strengthening of our immune system.  Sign me up!

Introducing kids to laughter yoga is like, um, the easiest thing in the world to do!  Kids laugh so easily.  They laugh at funny faces, bad jokes, staring contests, funny noises, slapstick humor etcetera.  They laugh in their sleep!  At least mine do.  I cannot think of a more fun or an easier class to put together than a laughter yoga class. 

Let’s explore some ideas for a class:

Partner Funny Faces: Pair your students together and instruct them to take turns making funny faces at one another. 

The ‘Copy My Laugh’ Game: Have all the class attendees stand in a close circle.  The teacher can start off with a laugh that will then be copied by the next person, and so on.  The goofier, the funnier!

No Smile Game: Again, pair off your kiddos and have them see who can withhold from smiling the longest – sure to make all the kids laugh pretty quickly.

‘Funniest Thing that Ever Happened to Me’ Stories: Your class can sit in a circle and take turns telling the funniest event in their lives to date. If I ask my 68-year old father to retell the time he hit his brother in the head because he thought he was a stranger in the middle of the night, he will cry with laughter in the re-telling.  That’s the point here: laughter is contagious. 

Laughter Yoga song: Kidding Around Yoga has an entire song based on Dr. Kataria’s Laughter Yoga (it even features his voice!)

As a school teacher, I imagine using laughter yoga in the classroom would be helpful.  My oldest daughter is in fourth grade this year, and I know for a fact her teacher has had a tense year with her twenty-five kids.  Laughing is a wonderful antidote to tension.  It’s hard to be mad when you find something hysterically funny.  A teacher could tell a joke, try teaching a lesson in a funny accent, or just simply have the kids laugh out loud for a few minutes.  Something simple, quick, and relieving.  If you are a school teacher reading this, I hope you’ll give this concept a try!

I personally love laughing.  Certainly, I prefer it over crying.  To think that we can choose to infuse a not-so-happy situation with laughter and reap some serious, science-backed health benefits from it is GAME CHANGING.  One caveat: If you know you are going to do a laughter exercise in your yoga class, I highly suggest you have everyone use the bathroom beforehand!  Have fun and get those tummies in stitches. 

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