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Laughter Yoga

Get Your Ha-Ha On!

by Traci Penna

Research indicates that we think over 50,000 thoughts a day. It’s believed that the average adult fills the mind with 80% of the same thoughts from yesterday. That means that 40,000 of your thoughts today are the same as yesterday – doesn’t this boggle your mind?

Science has also proven it’s impossible to laugh and think at the same time. You may think you’re thinking when you’re laughing because thoughts can come very quickly after laughter. So if you need a break from thinking - JUST LAUGH!

The good news is that everyone can laugh! You don’t even need to be happy or feel good first. You don’t need a sense of humor either and ANY time is a good time to laugh. Human beings were wired to laugh - laughter is a universal language. Every culture laughs. And the even better news is that the human mind doesn’t know the difference between fake and real laughter!

The sad news is that a five year old laughs and average of 400 times a day - but by the time we’re an adult we laugh only an average of 15 times a day. Studies have shown that a baby can laugh a full three months before he/she has the ability to utter sounds - so we all have been able to access the wonderful power of laughter since almost birth!

In the past, happy, healthy humans were said to spend 20 minutes a day or more in laughter. Today, the adult daily laugh time is down to probably five minutes or less in many countries. That used to be 15% and now 6% - less than half of what it used to be. This certainly is a negative aspect of modern life, don’t you think?

The U.S. is ranked only #23 in the world - in regards to the happiness factor. Statistically, 1 out of 5 women (in America) are currently taking anti-depressants and men aren’t far behind. What does this say about your life?

A regular 45-minute laughter session can have a positive affect on overall health and well being, Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally and Spiritually . . . . its called the P.I.E.S. Theory.

Physically – Belly laughs result in muscle relaxation. While you laugh, the muscles that do not participate in the belly laugh, relax. After you finish laughing those muscles involved in the laughter start to relax. So, the action takes place in two stages. Laughter re-balances cell chemistry caused by stress, pain and effects every major body system. A belly laugh is equivalent to "an internal jogging." Laughter can provide good cardiac conditioning especially for those who are unable to perform physical exercises.

Intellectually - Laughter involves the whole brain and serves to integrate and balance activity in both hemispheres. It also promotes memory awareness and retention of information, thereby increasing intellect.

Emotionally - Laughter offers a restoration/renewal revitalization from fear, anger and boredom. It’s a Universal Human Survival Process. Laughter boosts levels of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers and suppresses the levels of epinephrine, the stress hormone.

Spiritually - Laughter results in the experience of connection with ourselves, each other and all living things in the universe.

An easy fun way to get your Ha-Ha on is by practicing Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga came about 11 years ago when Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian doctor (and his wife) and a student of yoga, was writing a paper for a medical journal titled "Laughter is the Best Medicine." Dr. Kataria was convinced of the medical benefits of laughter and yoga exercises and began to search for a way to bring these benefits together. From this search, Laughter Yoga was born and people all over the world are now enjoying the benefits of Laughter Yoga classes.

Laughter Yoga is based on the philosophy of "Acting Happiness." It involves a combination of laughing exercises, yogic breathing, playfulness and stretching. It can be done alone, but is most beneficial in a group setting, led by a laughter leader. If you’re laughing with a group of other people, fake laughter very quickly becomes real. It’s part of the social phenomenon surrounding laughter.

Almost anyone can participate in Laughter Yoga, even people with cognitive or physical limitations of various kinds. It transcends all barriers: language, age, gender, social or racial background too. Today there are over 6000 laughter clubs/classes in over 60 countries. It’s a new revolution in mind-body wellness, complete with side-splitting improv and silliness - all rolled into a complete fitness routine and just plain healthy fun!

Traci Pena is the Program Director and the Laugh Leader at the Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center in Rutland Vermont. She is a life-long student of holistic living and finding a better way. Her main passion lies in laughter and music therapies and how they relate to mind-body wellness. She hopes her work helps people find a place of peace within their hearts and that peace spirals outward as they interact at home, work, and in the larger community, in these challenging times.

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