Stick out your tongue, raise your forearms. Put your palms out, make claws and roar like a lion!
Ho-Ho-Ha-Ha-Ha! Welcome to Laughter Yoga, a class like no other.
In Laughter Yoga, you don’t tell jokes. Instead, under the guidance of a Laughter Yoga leader, you just laugh for no reason. At first, it can seem forced, but soon the laughter is real. Laughter Yoga folks have a saying: “Fake it until you make it.”
The theory behind Laughter Yoga is that since the body can’t tell the difference between real and fake laughter, the benefits are the same regardless. Studies suggest that a good belly laugh increases oxygen supply, helps relieve pain, reduces depression and lowers blood pressure.
Madan Kataria, a physician from India, founded the Laughter Yoga movement in 1995 in a park in Mumbai. Laughter Yoga combines stretching and laughter exercises based on yogic breathing. Now, Laughter Yoga clubs have spread to 100 countries.
I heard about Laughter Yoga in an acting class. I Googled and found the Laughter Yoga website, enrolled in a two-day Laughter Yoga training class in New York City, and in 2015 became a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader.
During a one-hour Laughter Yoga class, we may talk in gibberish and perform handshake laughter, dental floss laughter, cellphone laughter or milkshake laughter, among other activities. I encourage my students to leave their inhibitions at the door and have fun in a safe place where childlike playfulness is encouraged.
“I came into class stressed and worn out,” says Suzanne McCoy, a Brooklyn native and National Park Service park ranger. “To my surprise, at the end of class, I felt energized and relaxed at the same time.”