Whenever I think about laughing in the face of stressful adversity, insanity comes to mind. I picture a wild-haired and googly-eyed madman wrapped in a straight jacket and laughing like Vincent Price all the way to the nuthouse. Fortunately, laughter yoga, a practice born in 1995 by Indian medical doctor Dr. Madan Kataria and an article he wrote called “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”
If you follow my articles here on Vivastic, you already know I am a big advocate for laughter and joy, especially when faced with difficulties and stress so powerful it can run us down and overwhelm us. The fortunate thing is laughing in the face of adversity is really not equated with madness or Vincent Price-like laughter.
While there are no difficult poses and back-bending stretches associated with laughter yoga (sigh of relief from the not so flexible,) it incorporates yoga breathing techniques with laughter to draw more oxygen into the body and the brain. More oxygenated cells help release the endorphins in the brain that make you feel psychologically better.
It has been said by self-help gurus and speakers for decades that in order to stand strong in the face of hardships and overwhelming struggles, we have to make happiness a choice. You know as well as I do that when you’re feeling low and run down, it is difficult to choose happiness over the sinking feeling of sorrow and depression. It seems easier to just give in to the negative feelings surrounding us, than to try standing up and moving through them.
When Dr. Kataria first began his experiment in 1995, he started a laughter club. The members brought along jokes to share with the group, but after less than two weeks the good store of jokes ran out. With the inspiration toward laughter failing, Kataria began developing another strategy that incorporated yogic breathing, simple stretching and self-generated laughter exercises. One of the key factors surrounding these exercises was allowing yourself to return to a childlike state that promoted simple enjoyment and happiness.
As a mother and an aunt to two beautiful young ladies, I can tell you first hand that when you’re five-years-old, laughter is a priority. It is contagious and beautiful, and once those girls start laughing, it’s only a matter of seconds before the joy begins to spread to everyone around them.
Sebastian Gendry of Laughter Yoga of America put it into simple terms we can all understand, “Laughter is a universal language that transcends all barriers: language, age, gender, race, and social background.” And really it does when you think about it. Even if you don’t speak the same language, laughter is something everyone can identify with, breaking down barriers that often lead to struggles for power when we feel insecure and overwhelmed.
So, if you find yourself feeling beaten down and ready to give in to daily stress, don’t just search for a yoga class near you. Look for a laughter yoga center, and ha-ha-ha you’re way to a healthier, happier you.