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Laughter Yoga

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Updated June 11, 2012

Laughter Yoga is one of the latest yoga-inspired trends, as evidenced by recent features on the Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN. But although it originated in India and definitely includes laughing, don't expect much yoga if you try out this new kid on the block.

According to the Laughter Yoga International website, the method originated in 1995 when Dr. Madan Kataria, having written on the health benefits of laughter, convened a group of students in a Mumbai, India, park to test whether incorporating regular laughter into people's lives would improve their well-being. Though at first he relied on telling jokes to get the laughter started, he soon discovered that simulating laughter (chanting HO HO HO and HA HA HA) offered the same benefits as (and often led to) the real thing. A student of yoga, Kataria also incorporated deep breathing and simple stretches into his sessions.

Medical research has suggested that laughing is a good way to reduce stress and stimulate the release of the body’s feel-good hormones (endorphins). Kataria’s Laughter Clubs, as well as other forms of laughter therapy, are popping up all over. Kataria even offers laughter conference calls for those who don’t have a local Laughter Club.

Although yoga can take many forms, it is most often associated in modern times with the performance of postures known as asana practice. Laughter Yoga doesn't include much in the way of yoga asanas, so don't go in expecting a workout of any kind. Nonetheless, it can still be a good way to blow off some steam and lighten your emotional load in an over-stressed world.

Sources:

Laughter Yoga International: www.laughteryoga.org

Laughter Research Conducted at Loma Linda University Medical Center. March 11, 1999

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