By Sangeetha Saran
Laughter Yoga is a new exercise phenomena based on laughing and Yogic-breathing exercises called pranayama. Many of the major television networks have done pieces on Laughing Yoga because it is such an effective way to revitalize the entire system of the practitioner. Participating in these sessions has even been shown to have cardiovascular benefits. Some say, the equivalent benefit of thirty minutes of aerobic exercise in as little as ten minutes of light-hearted, laughing fun.
The stated mission of Laughter Yoga is to encourage joy, happiness, peace and good mental and physical health for everyone throughout the world. There are over 6,000 free Laughter Yoga clubs in the world today. Laughing Yoga classes are facilitated by certified teachers who have been trained in the method. Practitioners gather together daily or weekly to laugh, make friends and practice ancient Yogic breathing exercises. The classes are absolutely free and open to all. Many Laughter Yogis and Yoginis find the method to be so uplifting and exhilarating, they have not missed a daily class in several years.
A typical session is initiated by “play-acting” real laughter. Soon enough, real laughter begins to sweep through the group as the energy rises and the funniness of the situation strikes the participants. Laughter is often contagious. Just attending a humorous Yoga session can shift the mood of a dour participant. In fact, scientists have determined that the body cannot tell the difference between real and fake laughter. These findings suggest that just participating in a session, even if a participant is not truly “feeling” the laughter, will give an individual the same physical and emotional benefits as real laughter.
An Indian physician from Mumbai, India by the name of Dr. Madan Kataria developed Laughter Yoga. The first club session was held outside at a local park in his neighborhood in 1996 with only a handful of participants. The feelings of lightness, happiness and exhilaration so impressed the participants, they told their family and friends about Laughing Yoga. Laughter Yoga classes are now held in over sixty countries worldwide. Laughing Yoga sessions are now being introduced as a therapeutic tool into schools, prisons, business meetings, hospitals and senior centers. Laughter Yoga Clubs are run by volunteers and are not affiliated with any political or religious group of any kind. The clubs are often free and open to all.
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