There are approximately 6000 clubs around the world that practice laughter yoga as a way to improve mood, health and overall wellbeing. Here is a description of laughter yoga from the official Laughter Yoga International website:
Laughter Yoga is a revolutionary idea – simple and profound. An exercise routine, it is fast sweeping the world and is a complete wellbeing workout. It is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician from Mumbai who started the first laughter club in a park on 13th March 1995, with just 5 people. Today, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 6000 social laughter clubs in 60 countries.
Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group but with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter.One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits
So what are the physiological and psychological benefits of laughter and how can they help patients with Fibromyalgia? Here is a list I compiled from my research:
- Laughter reduces pain and allows us to tolerate discomfort. It is not clear whether laughter is just a diversionary tactic to help us forget our pain or if it is due to a chemical change and an increase in endorphins, but researchers have time and again documented lowered pain responses in patients treated with humor therapy. It is also thought that a good hearty laugh that brings you to tears removes toxic substances that build up in our bodies during periods of emotional stress.
- Laughter improves brain function and reduces stress. Laughter stimulates both sides of the brain to enhance learning. It eases muscle tension and psychological stress, which keeps the brain alert and allows people to retain more information. Laughter is a great way to combat fibrofog.
- Laughter aids in better relaxation and improved sleep. The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin’s memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
- Laughter helps your immune system carry out its natural functions. Laughter moves lymph fluid around your body simply by the convulsions you experience during the process of laughing; so it boosts immune system function and helps clear out old, dead waste products from organs and tissues. Your lymph system doesn’t have a separate pump; your body needs to move around to properly circulate lymph fluid so that your immune system can carry out its natural functions. Laughter is a great way to support that.
Pain, brain function and sleep (the three biggest complaints of Fibromyalgia patients) can all be improved with a regular dose of hearty laughter. And according to Dr. Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga International, it doesn’t even matter if the laughter is spontaneous or forced, your body does not recognize the difference. When you laugh you are forcing oxygen into your lungs, muscles and the cells of your body, which boosts circulation and increases energy. And if you watch this video you will see, laughing is just plain old fun.
Tomorrow evening my support group is going to be treated with a session of laughter yoga. I will be sure to report back on the event and share with you how we all feel after all the laughter, giggles and silliness of the event.