Laughter Yoga – are you serious? Many Yoga teachers don’t even consider it. Yoga is a serious art, science, and way of life. Should we make it into a joke? Paul Jerard often says, “we have to learn to laugh at ourselves.” In fact, taking life too seriously could kill us. Next time you think about adding a new Yoga class to the schedule, you might want to smile while you’re doing it.
Evidently, laughter really is the best medicine. M. D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, known for its innovative research and cutting-edge technology, recently added an unexpected weapon to its arsenal of complementary care alternatives. Laughter Yoga, a technique developed by an Indian doctor in 1995, provides a light-hearted, healthy break from the grueling pace of medical procedures and offers patients a chance to play and connect with each other.
Already growing in popularity, the use of laughing Yoga in the medical field gives additional credibility and exposure to a practice that can potentially help cancer patients deal with anxiety and find support. Consisting of three techniques, laughing Yoga engages practitioners with chanting and clapping, laughter, and meditation.
A study based on results from 20 people at the University of Maryland suggests that laughter might be as effective as aerobic exercise in keeping arteries healthy. According to “Psychology Today,” humor has far-reaching emotional and physical benefits:
• It increases creativity and problem-solving abilities.
• It creates a sense of connection and synchronizes brains within a group setting.
• It increases pain tolerance.
• It lowers blood sugar levels.
• It increases the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain.
• It strengthens immunity and regulates blood flow.
• It provides support by bringing people together.
“Science Daily” reported in 2008 that health care workers who care for terminally ill patients say that constructive wit is the key to coping on a daily basis, and evidence shows that students learn more quickly when humor is part of the lesson. At Swedish Cancer Hospital in Chicago, laughter Yoga accompanies chemotherapy, potentially helping patients and caregivers at the same time.
Although researchers are not sure exactly how laughter works, some theorize that it may increase feel-good endorphins or stimulate the production of nitric oxide in the walls of arteries. Clinical studies conducted in India, Austria, Bangalore, and the United States, however, claim their studies offer proof that Laughter Yoga lowers levels of stress hormones and decreases the likelihood of helplessness and depression.
People who have cancer live with stress and uncertainty, states that foster negative feelings. Laughing Yoga offers emotional and physical relief that can improve the quality of their lives and possibly allow them to live longer. Sometimes, Yoga instructors need to have a sense of humor.