Laughter Yoga is a unique combination of Yogic breathing and laughter exercises. Good for mind, body and emotions, the health benefits are varied. In my view it's a particularly good form of exercise for older women and for those who who want a more creative, playful and less target driven approach to a cardio-workout.
Here's an overview of some of these health benefits.
More oxygen from exhalation
Specifically, the laughter exercises in combination with the Yogic breathing, are designed to expand the lungs, stimulate the diaphragm and naturally create a longer exhalation. (Important for the optimum elimination of carbon dioxide and toxins.) This improves overall circulating oxygen, resulting in better oxygenation to the brain and other vital organs, which enables optimum overall function and performance. This type of breathing is also a great exercise for the throat area. Non specific throat problems are common in post -menopausal women, so Laughter Yoga could be a particularly good form of exercise for women with this type of issue.
Laughter Yoga exercises also help to increase blood circulation to the digestive and lymphatic systems.This, combined with improvements to breathing, help to eliminate toxins from the body. Thus further enabling the body to operate at peak performance. Digestive issues and poor circulation can be common in post-menopausal women, so Laughter Yoga would be particularly beneficial here.
Laughter boosts the immune system
In general laughter raises resistance to infections by increasing the concentration of circulating antibodies and white blood cells. The body is then better able to fight off infections and other diseases. The immune system can be compromised during the menopause, so Laughter Yoga would be a great (and fun) way to combat this
Laughter - a mood enhancer and stress buster
Recall the last time you had a really good hearty laugh. How did it make you feel? Refreshed? Energised? Relieved even? Well, there are reasons for this. We now know that laughter stimulates the production of endorphins (happy hormones) which lift mood. An effect which, after 20 minutes of laughter yoga, can last for up to 24 hours.
Research has shown that laughter reduces levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, which in turn stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system; all of which creates a greater sense of relaxation and well being. And who doesn't need a piece of that action! Low mood and mild anxiety can be common in menopausal women, so another reason why Laughter Yoga could be so good for the older woman.
Laughter Yoga can be seen as a universal remedy for the release of emotions and the reduction of pain. This is promoted by the release of Endorphins, which are natural opiates more potent than the equivalent amounts of morphine. To one degree or another issues with joint pain can be prevalent amongst older women. So, if you're looking for natural alternatives to pain relief Laughter Yoga is worth trying.
The practise of Laughter Yoga approaches laughter as a physical exercise rather than a cognitive function; by-passing the requirement for a sense of humour. Virtually anyone can laugh and the basic premise of Laughter Yoga is to allow laughing for no reason. Over time and with regular practise it is not unusual for people to recover from illness and many women have reported a reduced frequency of migraine headaches.
Happiness and group laughter
Here in the UK there's been a lot of media coverage about dementia and it's prevention. Exercise has been cited as an important factor here along with group activity. Laughter Yoga done in a club combines the two. In addition we now know that our own happiness is intrinsically linked to the quality of our lives; which, in turn, is significantly influenced by the quality of our relationships. Laughter brings people together. Laughter Yoga is usually done as a group activity in Laughter Clubs.Over time this helps to connect people; enabling caring and meaningful relationships to flourish. So, within the context of dementia prevention, Laughter Yoga done in a group can be viewed as one type of activity to optimise your mental health.
Laughing through challenges
Most people can laugh when times are good. However, with Laughter Yoga comes an ability to laugh for no reason. So, even when times are hard, laughter is possible. This helps to maintain a positive mental attitude regardless of circumstances. Laughter becomes a coping mechanism and provides strength in adversity. Enabling us to better cope with life's ups and downs.
As with so much else in life, in order to gain the benefits, Laughter Yoga needs to be practised regularly ie daily/weekly. From an anecdotal point of view my own experience of Laughter Yoga has been a positive one. I aim to do an early morning half hour practise a few days a week - a great way to start the day. I find it both invigorating and grounding and it does seem to have mood enhancing effects.
I have noticed that I laugh more during the day and that I now easily laugh for no reason! During the exercises the laughter created now feels genuine. Surprisingly, I've also noticed a reduction in joint pain. I'm also aware that I have better breath control when playing the recorder.
Laughter Yoga is a creative form of exercise and can be done by most people. However, it is not a replacement for seeking medical attention where that's appropriate. Also, as with all forms for exercise, it's not for everyone. If you have any of the following conditions then you should avoid doing it - epilepsy, uncontrolled heart disease, poorly controlled asthma, psychotic illness/schizophrenia, hernia, glaucoma. Pregnancy is also a relative contra-indication. This is not an exhaustive list though. So it's wise to be cautious. However, if you would like to give Laughter Yoga a try but there are health issues, do seek advice from your doctor. Also, you can always discuss any concerns you might have with the laughter club leader when you join.
Laughter Yoga clubs have now sprung up all over the world and there many in the UK. If you live in the north east of England (around the Tyneside area) please come to my club at The Vault, Wallsend, North Tyneside.
Overall, Laughter Yoga has been an interesting part of my journey to create more happiness in my life. In a short space of time I've already noticed some positive benefits. Give it a try. Then watch your life unfold.