by Shannon Traphagen

Laughter Yoga is a new take on an ancient form of exercise. First emerging in 1997 in India by physician Dr. Madan Kataria, Laughter Yoga combines yogic breathing techniques with unconditional laughter and creative exercise. Practitioners do not have to master any of the traditional yoga postures. They simply need to laugh — it’s that easy!

According to Psychology Today, research shows that humor and laughter offer benefits to health, release physical and emotional tension, improve immune health, stimulate circulation and breathing, elevate mood, enhance cognitive functioning, and, yes, even increase friendliness. Laughter Yoga is also known to offer tremendous benefits for caregivers and seniors — relieving stress and anxiety, and offering social stimulation.

Laughter is considered to be so healing it inspired psychologist Steve Wilson to start the World Laughter Tour. In a 2013 article, Wilson stated, “Every day there is more news about the power of humor and laughter to heal us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Every system of the body responds to laughter in some important, positive, healing way.”

So, how do you practice Laughter Yoga? Classes typically start with some socializing and talk about laughter, (for example laughter should come from the diaphragm). Next, the group warms up with stretching and breathing exercises, and then the laughter games start. Classes are usually designed to suit the needs of the people attending. It could be highly active with lots of movement or a seated class for those with restricted mobility. And, just like a typical yoga class, sessions end with silent meditation. According to the International Laughter Yoga University, there are four basic steps that include:

• Clapping and chanting

• Laughter yoga breathing

• Childlike playfulness

• Laughter yoga exercises

Each step focuses on specific elements. For example, during childlike playfulness, practitioners lift their arms in the air, which helps lift one’s mood. It may also bring forth happy memories or thoughts.

Currently, more than 65 countries are home to over 8,000 laughter clubs — including Buffalo. The Many Haha’s Laughter Yoga Club of Buffalo meets weekly for hour-long sessions and all are welcome. The Independent Health branch location of the YMCA offers laughter yoga classes for its members. And, the Himalayan Institute occasionally offers classes — please call for information. You may also occasionally find yoga studios that offer classes, such as Shine Yoga Studio. To learn more, visit yogalaugh33.wixsite.com/manyhaha, laughteryoga.org, or call 716-838-1042.

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