Feeling a bit down? Then likely the last thing you feel like doing is laughing and many people can relate to that. But, did you know that laughing has health benefits?
There is truth to the age-old wisdom that Laughter is the best medicine. While of course, it can’t replace all treatments it has some very important health benefits!
According to the Mayo Clinic laughter can help us in some ways that we might not be aware of initially. Laughter can help:
However, the benefits of laughter aren’t just short-term. If you make laughter a regular part of your routine ( 10-15 mins) it can help:
How can you get more laughter in your life? Take a Laughter Yoga Class!
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be physically fit or a yoga expert for laughter yoga.
It is for all ages, especially for seniors, and for all capabilities.
Laughter Yoga is all about voluntary and sustained laughter (for a minimum of 10-15 mins). It means laughing even in the absence of humorous stimuli, and even when you are depressed in order to reap the extraordinary, scientifically proven benefits, which include stress reduction, pain relief, weight loss, heightened immunity, and, especially, enhanced mood:
If you act happy, you'll become happy--your body can't tell the difference!
It is a combination of physical and playful body exercises (without jokes or comedy) and the belly breathing of yoga (don’t worry though there are no mats and no poses).
Laughter Yoga first became popular in 1995, thanks to Dr. Madan and Mrs. Madhuri Kataria who used the breathing techniques of yoga with the health benefits of laughter to create a powerful health and well-being exercise for the body that involves laughing!
Tanaz B. immigrated from India with her family to the Chicago area and it didn’t start off as the "American Dream" by a long shot. The family had thought that her and her husband’s degrees and education would help them land jobs but they didn’t translate to jobs. Both of them took any job available but between working outside of her area, being in a different culture, a new lifestyle, being away from her loving family and friends and trying to help her kids adjust, at some point, Tanaz stopped laughing her belly laugh that is uninhibited, loud, carefree, and made her feel joyful and relaxed.
“As a child, I used to laugh all the time. Without my laughter, I had to question - Who am I? Where is the life I wanted?”
Tanaz reached out for help from doctors, and therapists. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She improved a bit but something was still missing. She wanted to get her laughter back, so she went to a spiritual school (Chinmaya mission) to help her find inner peace. This helped her really to feel more balanced and from this experience, she wanted to help others and follow Gandhi's advice “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
She knew she wanted to do something but she wasn’t sure what, until she saw an article in the paper that said Dr. Kataria was coming to Chicago to certify people in Laughter Yoga.
“I rushed there. It was wonderful. I learned that for the first few minutes you have to fake laughter, but not long after, the fake laughter becomes real and contagious due to others around you, eye contact, and childlike playfulness.
Tanaz participated in a 1-day session that had the whole group laughing! Despite her doubts about if her fake laughter was ‘real’ enough or not she learned a valuable lesson that day from Dr. Kataria,
“Sometimes you might have to fake it until you make it. Your body doesn't know the difference when you're laughing. Laughing is a body function. If you act happy you will be happy, maybe not right away but it is catching.”
After this Tanaz was inspired to share her laughter with the world.
“Laughter Yoga is great for all ages from 5 to 100 or more and people of all capabilities. We don’t have to leave laughter to chance. We can laugh intentionally and voluntarily if we give ourselves the chance to do so!” How you feel or what your circumstances are, don't matter, as we laugh as an exercise. You just have to be willing and think out of the box.
Tanaz got certified in 2004 in order to bring the fun and joy of laughter yoga to others. Since then she’s done hundreds of sessions with participants of all ages. She’s been featured as well on WGNTV Chicago Channel 9 and other local TV channels, newspapers, magazines, radio, and recently, virtual presentations for her work with seniors, schools, workplaces, support groups, and more.
“I realized I had something important to give back. Just 10 minutes of hearty sustained laughter a day is good for people's health and well-being and can help improve people’s physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. Plus it helps us to feel less lonely and learn to cope and be resilient.”
Laughter helped Tanaz get out of the difficult time she faced in her life where she couldn’t laugh. It has taught her how to live in the moment and be happy no matter what.
“You get the benefits in the first session if you are willing to laugh. You don't have to remember any special exercises, you just come and do it. It’s perfect for anyone. I’ve even worked with people with dementia and Alzheimer’s and they love the laughter. It’s just such a simple and beautiful concept.”
So are you looking for an escape from the pandemic or something else that is dragging you down?
Then it sounds like it’s time for Laughter Yoga!.
Let’s take our lives less seriously, and take our innate and infinite laughter seriously.
Don’t worry, you can bring your fake laughter and fake smile, and you might just be surprised, how by the end of the session perhaps your mood is just a little bit more positive and you have had a bit of fun!
Because as the renowned author Mark Twain once said, “The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”
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