Laughter Yoga

When I first heard of Laughter Yoga, www.laughteryoga.org, my imagination filled with contorted middle aged round people in spandex, laughing with tears in their eyes at their preposterous attempts at “downward dogsâ€. I saw myself being hauled up off my yoga mat by a team of menopausal class mates as we giggled helplessly, arthritic knees, wonky hips and all.

My dear friend Sue Ansari enlightened me as to the truth: the word 'yoga' means 'mind-body' and in the case of LY (Laughter Yoga), we start with exercises that imitate and stimulate laughter, using the breath and the mind to mimic it. Feel good Endorphins are created whether your laughter is real or not, your body cannot tell the difference. Eventually the body takes over and real laughter ensues. How could it not in a room full of people acting so silly? It is funny and infectious.

I was relieved to also learn that this technique involves comfortable loose clothing, not spandex, and can be done sitting on a chair or standing.

Why is laughter the best medicine?

Our lymphatic system is our immune system. The lymphatic system has no pump (like the heart for our vascular system), instead, it works on inertia. Muscular expansion, bouncing and diaphragmatic breathing all help to propel the lymph fluid through the lymphatic vessels. The thoracic duct, located behind the lungs, is the largest organ in the lymphatic system and is best stimulated by laughter which augments deep breathing and uses the stomach muscles to create the healthy pressure and release that moves the lymph fluid thus strengthening your immune system. So with LY you get endorphins to make you feel good and a stimulated lymphatic system, something that everyone can benefit from, so add laughter yoga to your health regimen, and take two comedies and call me in the morning.

I have been a Laughter Yoga leader since 2006.
I have presented LY classes and workshops to such organizations as the MS society and HopeSpring Cancer support center and continue to facilitate these events to other groups as well, upon request. The benefits of Laughter have been well documented, beginning with Norman Cousin's book:
Anatomy of an Illness as perceived by the patient: reflections on healing

Dr. Lee Berk and fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California have been studying the effects of laughter on the immune system. To date their published studies have shown that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.

The incorporation of Laughter exercises and the Laughter Yoga philosophy are the foundation to the Laughing Lymphercise program which was created in 2007. www.laughing-lymphercise.com