Laughter Yoga: How It Works, Goals and Exercises

laughter yoga

With laughter yoga, you don’t have to balance on your hands or make difficult contortions. Instead, this yoga style actually focuses on laughter. In this guide, we will explain exactly how laughter yoga works.

It was developed in 1995 by the Indian doctor Madan Kataria in Mumbai. It is still a fairly new style of yoga, but it is becoming increasingly popular: there are now several thousand laugh centers around the world – places where people laugh together.

Unlike other yoga styles, laughter yoga does not involve demanding postures or long meditations. Instead, it’s primarily about laughing in isolation.  We explain to you how laughter yoga works and which exercises belong to a laughter yoga class. 

Laughter Yoga: How Does Yoga Style Work?

Laughter yoga, also called Hasya Yoga , has one thing above all on the program: Laughter. First of all, this is triggered on the motor level . That means: unlike jokes or comedy, no cognitive stimulation is used to laugh. Instead, the participants deliberately begin to laugh until the initially artificial laughter turns into natural laughter – true to the laughter yoga motto “Fake it until you make it” (freely translated: “Fake it until it becomes real”).

The participants in the Laughter Yoga course infect each other until they reach a state of childish playfulness. In the typical Laughter Yoga exercises, a lot is practiced in groups and interacted with eye contact and playful exercises.

Laughter Yoga: Classic Exercises of a Yoga Class

A laughter yoga class often begins with some relaxation and stretching exercises as well as breathing exercises ( pranayama ), which relax the body and mind and prepare them for extensive laughter.

Then follow a few exercises, all of which have one goal: laugh, laugh, laugh. Typical laughter yoga exercises include clapping and breathing exercises as well as pantomime elements . For example, there are the following laughter yoga exercises:

  • Hoho-Haha-Laugh: The participants repeat the syllables “hoho” and “haha” expressively. They clap their hands and look into each other’s eyes.
  • Welcome laughter : The participants shake hands and laugh at each other’s faces.
  • Shy laughter: The participants hide behind their hands, then look shyly from behind them and laugh at their counterpart.

Some of these exercises are combined with jumping and dancing in laughter yoga . In addition, laughter yoga is often used to sing, play or speak gibberish .

So you see: Laughter yoga is anything but a strict meditation practice. Instead, the yoga style invites you to fool around, have fun and feel like a kid again.

At the end of a laughter yoga class, there are often some physical exercises (asanas), breathing exercises, or even gentle meditation. Depending on the studio and teacher, these elements may be completely omitted. A laughter yoga unit usually lasts between 20 to 60 minutes.

Goals and Effects

In laughter yoga, participants should laugh heartily and freely for no reason. They forget everyday worries in a playful way. According to the inventor of laughter yoga, the body cannot distinguish whether laughter is real or played – but the positive effects are the same. It is said to have a beneficial effect on both a physiological and a mental and emotional level.

Laughter yoga should include:

  • act against stress and anxiety ,
  • Relieve pain and tension,
  • improve general well-being and mood,
  • strengthen the cardiovascular system,
  • strengthen the oxygen supply and
  • Improve empathy and social contact skills.

In the meantime, there are also scientific studies of laughter yoga and its effects – especially as a therapy option for stress, anxiety, and depression. There are among others the following research results and studies on laughter yoga :

  • A study of 38 male students in the medical care sector has shown that regular laughter yoga can improve general health and help with sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.
  • A pilot study from 2012 suggests that laughter yoga improves heart rate variability and mood of participants.
  • An r andomisierte controlled study with 50 elderly depressed women came to the conclusion in 2019 that Laughter Yoga for depression can help and improve mental health.
  • Laughter yoga can also be effective against stress. This is the result of a study with 37 cancer patients who were before chemotherapy treatment.

Laughter Yoga: Who Is It For?

In contrast to Ashtanga Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga, or other forms of Hatha Yoga, there are no demanding physical exercises in Laughter Yoga. Therefore, this yoga style is also suitable for people who are physically restricted due to injuries or old age.

Laughter yoga is offered in retirement homes for the elderly, in schools for children, or in hospitals for patients and mothers. But laughter yoga is also becoming increasingly popular in companies and universities.

Since the lungs, airways, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles are heavily used, laughter yoga is not suitable for some diseases and complaints. These include angina pectoris, stool, and urinary incontinence, aneurysm, glaucoma, fractured ribs, diaphragmatic hernia, extremely high blood pressure, herniated discs, and epilepsy. If in doubt, you should talk to your doctor and yoga teacher in detail before you start laughing yoga.

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