You may burst into laughter at the very thought of laughter yoga.
Go ahead; we won’t stop you from having a good chuckle at our expense. Keep on giggling to your heart’s content. After all, it is good for you.
Modern life is stressful. Often, we may not feel like chortling at all. Preoccupied with the stress and strain of daily living, we may be more likely to frown and show annoyance than smile or burst into a fit of laughter.
Laughter yoga is a fascinating practice to consider using with your clients – they are guaranteed to leave with a big smile on their face – and this is the practice we will explore in this article.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
- What Is Laughter or Hasna Yoga?
- A Brief History of Laughter Yoga
- 4 Benefits According to Research
- How to Do Laughter Yoga Therapy: 6 Steps
- 4 Techniques & Exercises for Your Sessions
- 4 Poses to Teach in Your Classes
- 4 Wellness Tips for Kids, Seniors, and Groups
- Training in Laughter Yoga: 2 Certification Options
- 2 Best Courses and Online Options
- 3 Fascinating Books and Apps to Try
- Resources From PositivePsychology.com
- A Take-Home Message
What Is Laughter or Hasna Yoga?
Laughter or hasna yoga is an intentional exercise involving movement and yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) to promote voluntary laughter over a prolonged period (Macdonell, 1996).
No jokes are necessary here. Laughter can be faked, and the human body and mind do not know it is simulated (McGettigan et al., 2013). Hasna yoga is based on the premise that laughing intentionally provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter (Kataria, 2002).
Laughter yoga involves gentle stretching, chanting, clapping, eye contact, and body movements. Breathing exercises prepare the lungs for a good bout of laughter. Exercises combine acting, visualization techniques, and playfulness.
Laughter exercises intersect with breathing exercises and are finished with laughter meditation and guided relaxation exercises (Kataria, 2002).
Laughter yoga can be an excellent way to keep fit and healthy. When it is practiced in groups, the contagious element of laughter means it quickly spreads to other people nearby.
A Brief History of Laughter Yoga
Hasna yoga originates from India.
The word hasna comes from ancient Sanskrit and means laughter or laughing (Macdonell, 1996).
Yuj is a Sanskrit word that means ‘to join.’ It is the origin of yoga, the discipline that unites the mind, body, and spirit (Basavaraddi, 2015).
The founder of contemporary laughter yoga is medical doctor Madan Kataria. Originally from the Punjab area of India, Kataria (2002) came across work on its therapeutic benefits while researching laughter (Apte, 1985; Keith-Spiegel, 1972; Fry & Salameh, 1987).
In 1995, Kataria set up the first laughter club. From the initial five members (including Kataria and his wife), the numbers rose, and by the end of the first week, there were 55 people taking part in the club (Kataria, 2018).
Interestingly, the human body cannot differentiate between real and fake laughter (Bryant & Aktipis, 2014). Kataria asked group members to fake laugh for one minute and noticed the fake laughter turned into genuine laughter. Noting the similarities between laughter and pranayama yogic breathing, Kataria incorporated the two into warm-up exercises (Yazdani, Esmaeilzadeh, Pahlavanzadeh, & Khaledi, 2014).
The result was laughter yoga. According to the Laughter Yoga University, there are over 20,000 free social laughter clubs in 110 countries. This truly highlights the popularity of this activity, which has grown and expanded worldwide. Laughter is an unassuming natural medicine with multiple health benefits that you will learn more about in the next section.
4 Benefits According to Research
While the thought that laughter can benefit health is almost laughable, research in this area tells us this is true. Considerable scientific research over the past five decades shows us the benefit of laughter on our overall physical and mental health and wellbeing.
1. Lift depression with laughter
Approximately 280 million people are diagnosed with depression worldwide (Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2021). Wouldn’t it be ideal to have an intervention for depression that is free and available to all, such as laughter?
Laughter can be a powerful remedy for depression (Proyer, Ruch, & Rodden, 2012). As laughter releases endorphins, also described as the happy hormone, this decreases cortisol levels and increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin (Yim, 2016), which improves overall mood (Berk et al., 1989). A daily dose of laughter yoga may be able to decrease clients’ sadness and increase their happiness.
2. Laughter can act as a social glue
Laughter is a critical factor in relationship building, and shared laughter can indicate to others that they share a similar worldview. Laughter also increases people’s willingness to disclose information (Gray, Parkinson, & Dunbar, 2015).
Kurtz and Algoe (2017) studied the production of shared laughter in a laboratory setting. Participants were set up in couples to watch three types of videos, ranging from funny to not funny at all. Participants completed questionnaires to evaluate their positive and negative emotions, similarity, and likeness to their video partner. Results showed that shared laughter across the videos influenced how much they liked their video partner and wanted to be affiliated with them.
3. Blood pressure reduction with laughter
Blood pressure decreases with mirthful laughter. In a study involving 200 individuals involved in the regular practice of laughter, there was a 6.18 mm/Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 3.82 mm/Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure (Chaya et al., 2008).
For those with high blood pressure, a decrease in blood pressure can be beneficial for overall physical health.
4. Increase pain tolerance with a giggle
Humor can increase tolerance to pain (Weisenberg, Raz, & Hener, 1998). Weisenberg et al. (1998) found that subjects who were more cheerful showed an increase in pain tolerance after humor production from a funny film, whereas those who were less cheerful did not have a high pain tolerance.
How to Do Laughter Yoga Therapy: 6 Steps
There are many steps to the process of laughter yoga, so please read on to find out more.
- Start with warm-up exercises. Clap and chant ‘ho, ho, ho’ and ‘ha, ha, ha.’ This can help to break the ice. While clapping, use full finger-to-finger and palm-to-palm contact.
Enthusiastic clapping and chanting stimulates the diaphragm and builds positive energy (Biswas, 2017). If laughing in a group, move around, meet others, and make eye contact.
- Laughter exercises should be interspersed with deep breathing exercises, which helps push air through the lungs and aids in physical and mental relaxation (Louie, Brook, & Frates, 2016).
Stand up straight, lift your arms up slightly, hold your breath for five seconds, and exhale through the nose. To do this, bend forward at the waist, exhale through your mouth, and bring your arms down.
- Use childlike playfulness. Say ‘very good’ and ‘yay’ and clap. Simultaneously swing arms upward and keep eye contact with others.
- Greet others in the group with the many different types of laughter exercises described in the next section. These should be interspersed with deep breathing.
- Laughter meditation can be undertaken in a seated position, with folded legs and eyes open. Maintain eye contact with others in the group. Place hands in front of the chest with palms outward. Push them forward and say ‘ho, ho, ho’ forcefully.
Then push palms down twice, say ‘ho, ho, ho,’ take deep breaths, and repeat, with one minute of silence between each round. After one minute, start laughing softly and gradually. Lie down on the floor, close your eyes, and allow the laughter to build up over 5–10 minutes.
- Finish the session with yoga nidra relaxation (Datta, Tripathi, & Mallick, 2017). Lie down on your back, hands by your sides, with palms facing upward.
Try not to move. Take deep breaths. Inhale and relax the muscles as you exhale. Take slower, longer, and deeper breaths.
4 Techniques & Exercises for Your Sessions
The following are varied techniques and exercises that can be used with your clients in a session.
1. ‘Ha’ mantra for stress
One exercise to help clients de-stress is to ask them to think of a stressful situation or incident and use the mantra ‘ha ha.’
Encourage them to practice this when they begin to feel stressed in daily life, saying the sounds ‘haaaa, haaaa, haaaa’ slowly.
2. Smiling with the eyes
Ask your client to stand in front of a mirror and cover their mouth and nose with their hands.
Ask them to smile with only their eyes and keep this expression for 5–10 seconds.
3. Laugh and walk
Ask the client to stand up, laugh gently, and then pace up and down the room 10 times. Walking and laughing can be quite the workout!
This may not be an ideal exercise to undertake alone in public, as it may raise a few eyebrows, but it can be practiced with a friend. People will think you are sharing a good joke and want to hear it.
4. Pencil/chopstick challenge
Give your client a pencil and ask them to put it in their mouth sideways for two minutes. Ask them to vocalize the sounds of ‘he he he.’
As the muscles contract the face, happy chemicals are produced in the brain to change the state of mind (Yim, 2016).
4 Poses to Teach in Your Classes
The following laughter yoga poses can be taught in class.
1. Namaste laughter
Ask your group members to practice greeting each other with the words ‘Namaste’ while joining both hands, slightly bowing forward, looking into each other’s eyes, and laughing.
2. Mobile phone laughter
Ask your group members to pretend their mobile phone is ringing. Then ask them to put it to their ear and laugh as if they have heard a funny joke.
Tell them to walk around the room and laugh as they pretend to talk on the imaginary phone.
3. Lion laughter
This laughter exercise is derived from the simha mudra yogic pose (Telles & Gupta, 2021), also known as the lion posture.
Participants thrust out their tongue, widen their eyes, and stretch their hands out like a lion’s claws and roar.
4. Electric shock laughter
Ask group members to couple up with one another. Then ask one of them to shake the hand of the other, pretend they have received an electric shock from the touch, and then laugh out loud at the surprise.
They can also reverse the roles for this exercise.
4 Wellness Tips for Kids, Seniors, and Groups
Using yoga in education has proven highly beneficial. Here we have a few additional tips.
- Children are very good at laughing and laugh at least 300 times a day (Bainum, Lounsbury, & Pollio, 1984). It is relatively easy to make a child laugh, pull a few funny faces, and watch their smiles turn into giggles.
- Laughing makes seniors feel more positive and helps fight isolation (Martin & Kuiper, 1999). Why not watch a comedy movie with them?
- Seniors often have many past happy memories. Bring out some old photographs of joyful events and see how they laugh and smile. This also keeps memory active and slows down signs of dementia (Bains et al., 2014).
- Family groups with members of all ages can benefit from laughter. Why not put on a family performance when everyone is together and get some smiles and belly laughs out of all ages?
Training in Laughter Yoga: 2 Certification Options
Interested in becoming a certified laughter yoga practitioner? That is wonderful news, so consider the following options.
Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Accreditation
This UK certification is a two-day training course with United Mind. The laughter yoga trainer provider, Lotte Mikkelsen, has trained under Dr. Madan Kataria.
The training is accredited by the Federation of Holistic Therapists and includes verbal and written assessments, tips for starting a laughter club, and a video assessment.
There are other procedural regularities to receive this certification, such as necessary public and professional insurance, registration with the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the capability to handle data correctly.
Laughter Yoga University
Laughter Yoga International provides worldwide teacher training courses. These courses differ from one day to five days, and are constantly being updated.
Certified teachers train others to be certified laughter yoga leaders. Students will gain in-depth knowledge about leading laughter yoga in different application areas, along with promotion, marketing, and training skills.
2 Best Courses and Online Options
Online classes is also a great idea to consider, so here are a few more options for you.
Accredited laughter yoga leader online
This home study course can take anywhere from eight days to four weeks to complete. This course provides certification for those who cannot travel to the classroom-based two-day course with United Mind. The online course, accredited by the Accreditation Standards office, comprises 12 hours of learning, including online and follow-up sessions.
Laughter therapy diploma course
This course from the Centre of Excellence is an online 150-hour course registered with the Complementary Medical Association. Completion gains two certifications.
The course has seven modules: laughter and humor, benefits, laughter in lifestyle, mindful health, psychology, therapy, and professional practice.
3 Fascinating Books and Apps to Try
If laughter yoga is an intriguing new concept to you, then you may want to read these books first to educate yourself, and then sign up for the apps.
1. Laughter Yoga: Daily Practices for Health and Happiness – Madan Kataria
This book is a lighthearted read by the founder of contemporary laughter yoga himself, Dr. Madan Kataria.
Readers can follow numerous detailed exercises and pictures to visualize the laughter poses.
This book will show you how to bring laughter back into your client’s life.
Find the book on Amazon.
2. Laugh Your Way to Happiness: Use the Science of Laughter for Total Well-being – Lesley Lyle
This book provides scientific evidence about laughter’s benefits for mental and physical health and every aspect of life.
The book illustrates many fun and straightforward exercises. There are interesting case studies of people whose lives have been transformed for the better by laughter.
Find the book on Amazon.
3. Laugh My App Off
This app, available in Apple’s App Store, contains daily jokes, memes, and riddles.
If your clients struggle to laugh, encourage them to browse through this app for a few minutes each day.
Resources From PositivePsychology.com
We have a number of resources that can assist the budding laughter yoga practitioner, so consider the following options.
Getting Rid of ANTS – Automatic Negative Thoughts
Happiness may depend on recognizing and replacing negative thoughts. This worksheet will help your clients recognize what triggers their ANTS and how to counteract these with a positive thought.
Focus on the Little Things
Joy and happiness can be gained from small things. This worksheet helps clients enjoy life’s simple pleasures. The client lists four activities they will perform with mindfulness and presence the next day.
Adopt a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset allows us to look for new opportunities for learning (Dweck, 2017). This worksheet asks the client to create two columns – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset – and list ways of thinking that represent each.
17 Positive Psychology Exercises
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, check out this signature collection of 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners. Use them to help others flourish and thrive.
A Take-Home Message
Laughter is the best medicine.
After reading this article, you will no doubt agree with this famous proverb, seeing how scientific research highlights the benefits of laughter. Laughter and being happy can be a wonderful change of pace for those focused on being serious and negative.
Maintaining a good level of health is essential in life, yet a real challenge. This is where laughter yoga can rescue many of your clients, helping them deal with daily stress and difficulties with a big smile.
We hope you have found this article informative with all the poses, exercises, and tips to undertake laughter yoga with clients. Training in laughter yoga can open up a wealth of clients for you, as it can be practiced with the young and old alike from all over the world. It really is a type of therapy with few, if any, restrictions.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
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