Spreading Laughter Yoga

by Bill and Linda Hamaker

The vision of Laughter Yoga is to achieve Health, Joy and World Peace through laughter.   We are supporting this vision by spreading the word that we can all laugh to be happy instead of waiting to be happy to laugh.

Laughter Yoga involves deep breathing and a few stretches, playful laughter exercises (no jokes or comedy), clapping and relaxation.  There are no fancy poses. Any age and any level of physical ability can participate in this uplifting experience!  When we laugh in our daily lives the amount of time we spend laughing is typically much shorter than in a Laughter Yoga session which gives you maximum benefits of sustained laughter.

Laughter Yoga was created in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor in Mumbai, India. He knew that laughter was the best medicine so he gathered five friends in a park and started the first “laughter club”.  Initially they tried taking turns telling jokes as a way to generate laughter but quickly ran out of good jokes. Then Dr. Kataria figured out that they could “laugh for no reason” just by using playful exercises and by using the contagiousness of laughter to their advantage.  Thus “Laughter Yoga” was born and it quickly spread to other parks in India and then throughout the world.  Today there are about 8,000 laughter clubs in 80 countries.

This is a great example of innovation. Why was it able to spread relatively quickly even though there was little money to be made doing it?   Below are several lessons about innovation that can be learned from the story of Laughter Yoga.

  • When you have a great idea say YES to it!
  • Be ready to adapt your idea with lessons learned from trying it out.
  • Be selfless and don’t worry too much about what’s in it for you.
  • Take every opportunity to talk about your idea and demonstrate it.  Then enlist others in your cause.
  • Create educational materials that others can use to spread your idea.

We first experienced Laughter Yoga in 2008 when we took a weekend workshop at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and it had a powerful effect on us.   Later we were certified as Laughter Yoga Leaders by Sebastien Gendry, head of the American School of  Laughter Yoga.  We started our own laughter club in Franklin, Massachusetts south of Boston.

After another year we spent a week with Dr. Kataria to become Certified Laughter Yoga Teachers and have now trained and certified almost 100 laughers to be Laughter Yoga Leaders.  We then started three other laughter clubs in Westwood, Walpole, and Sharon, MA.  We have also led laughter sessions in businesses, churches, senior centers, nursing homes, health fairs and many other places.

Laughter Yoga has the potential to be useful in businesses and a number of companies have made use of it to help make their businesses more successful. This is more common in India where Laughter Yoga has a longer history, but as innovators perhaps you would like to explore ways to use it to improve your own business. Laughter is a universal human trait and it can add value to almost any situation.

Below are some ways that Laughter Yoga can be used:

  • A light-hearted break during more serious company meetings;
  • A way improve employee health and reduce hours lost to illness;
  • A way to improve morale and teamwork;
  • A way to improve creativity and “right brain” thinking;
  • A transition between workshops at a convention or all-day training.

Stress is a major problem today both in our personal lives and in business.  Part of the power of laughter is its ability to counteract stress.   Sustained laughter causes the brain to release endorphins so we can relax.  It also releases serotonin, the body’s natural painkiller. These hormones reduce the activity level of our sympathetic nervous system (our emergency “fight or flight” system) and increases the activity of our parasympathetic nervous system which promotes relaxation, connection to others and general health and well being.

Laughter also functions as a social bonding mechanism.  People think of laughter as a result of jokes or watching something funny, but if you study laughter in social situations you will find that most laughter occurs when nothing funny was said.  It is simply one of ways that we humans relate to each other in a positive way.

To learn more about Laughter Yoga at www.letslaughtoday.com If you would like to discuss ideas for using Laughter Yoga in your business you can email  billandlinda@letslaughtoday.com.

image credit: let’s laugh today

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10 comments

  1. Wonderfularticle,thank you forfinding thiswonderful website

  2. I include laughter in my life and have been doing so for the past couple of years. It has made a great positive difference in the quality of my life as I struggle with my husband’s increasing dementia. I heartily recommend it for anyone who wants to add a healthy alternative to their lives.

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