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Beat stress, fatigue and depression with laughter yoga

Beat stress, fatigue and depression with laughter yoga

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : September 25, 2014 4:30 PM IST

laughter yoga'Laughter is the best medicine', is an age-old saying, and about 10,000 laughter clubs in India are a testimony to the fact that the therapy actually works. A combination of group laughter exercises with yoga breathing (or pranayam), which allows people to laugh without cracking jokes, should be performed for at least 15 to 20 minutes, says Hasya yoga guru Jiten Kohi.

'The good chemical changes in the body can happen only if you spend time on it. The effects won't be great if you finish your asanas quickly,' Kohi told IANS. 'Such asanas are good for depressed people or those who lead stressful lives,' he added. Read about the signs of depression.

Rahul Chandhok, senior consultant psychiatrist at Gurgaon's Fortis Hospital, pointed out that while work pressure has always been there, other factors like commuting and traffic are adding to the woes of people. 'In the metros one needs to commute for long hours; therefore, people are unable to give time to their families or even take out time for themselves. This causes stress, Another reason is that everyone is competing with everyone for everything. In big cities, day-to-day life is hectic and deadline driven leading to a lot of stress which eventually multiplies over time.'
Chandhok told IANS.

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As people grow up, they forget to laugh. Nowadays they just exercise. But laughter yoga is no exercise, it is simply a way to let go of all you inhibitions and laugh like a child. It ensure that you will be stress free and will you stay fit. According to experts the best time to do the asanais in the morning hours, so that the air one breathes in is relatively fresh and pollution free. Apart from other recreational activities, laughter exercises help in improving the well-being of people. 'If you laugh wholeheartedly, your facial muscles will gain benefits and there will be a feeling of well-being, especially when you do such exercises in a group. Your body releases chemicals that help to relieve stress,' Ravindra Gupta, consultant in internal medicine at Gurgaon's Columbia Asia Hospital, told IANS. Read about yoga asanas you could perform for stress relief.

However, he clarified that laughter can de-stress, but it can't cure ailments. 'It can't treat ailments. It can reduce blood pressure to some extent, but medication is required,' said Gupta. Echoing this, Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga International, says laughter-based exercises help the immune system. Read why laughter is still the best medicine.

'When you laugh, the stress level goes down and you don't easily fall sick,' said Kataria, who started his institution with his wife Madhuri in 1995 in Mumbai. 'In people with blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, we have noticed a 50 percent improvement in their health due to laughter exercises. I am not saying it completely cures diseases, but there is reduction in medication,' he explained. Chandhok said that yoga or meditation or laughter sessions are important for a healthy life, but medical treatment is equally vital. 'Treatment is essential. Complete it and then continue with these healthy activities,' he said.

Wondering what laughter yoga actually is? Here are a few questions about the practice answered byDr Madan Kataria, Founder of Laughter Yoga.

What is Laughter Yoga?

Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine which combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can laugh without relying on humour, jokes or comedy. Laughter is initially simulated as a physical exercise while maintaining eye contact with others in the group and promoting childlike playfulness. In most cases, this soon leads to real and contagious laughter. Science has proved that the body cannot differentiate between simulated and real laughter.

Laughter Yoga sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques which include stretching, chanting, clapping and body movement. Breathing exercises are used to prepare the lungs for laughter, followed by a series of 'laughter exercises' that combine the method of acting and visualisation techniques with playfulness.

A Laughter Yoga session may finish with 'laughter meditation'. This is a session of unstructured laughter whereby participants sit or lie down and allow natural laughter to flow from within us like a fountain. This is a powerful experience that often leads to a healthy emotional catharsis and also a feeling of release and joyfulness that can last for days. This can be followed by guided relaxation exercises.

Why should anyone practice Laughter Yoga?

1. To get the scientifically proven benefits of laughter, one needs to laugh longer at least 15-20 minutes with resting breaks in-between. Only then can the body get its physiological and biological health benefits. But, in everyday life we barely laugh for a few seconds here and there. Laughter Yoga helps in extended laughter because laughter is done in the form of an exercise and you can choose to laugh for as long as you want.

2. Laughter Yoga enables you to laugh loudly. This is particularly essential to get health benefits. In fact, you need to do full belly laughing, but very often in social situations, this kind of all-out laughing is not appropriate. That's why Laughter Clubs are important as they provide a safe place to laugh out loud.

3. People always need some reason to laugh. However, there are not many reasons that make us laugh in real life. Laughter Yoga enables you to laugh even when there is no reason to laugh. Sometimes, life just isn't that funny. That's why Laughter Yoga teaches you to laugh no matter what. We are not leaving laughter to a chance but are making a commitment to laugh because it is a great wellness tool.

What are the major benefits of Laughter Yoga?

1. Elevates mood:Laughter Yoga can change your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins. This makes you feel good and keeps you cheerful throughout the day.

2. Improves health:Laughter Yoga reduces stress and strengthens the immune system. If your immune system is strong you will not fall sick easily and even if you have chronic health conditions, it will help heal them faster.

3.More energy:Our brain needs 25% more oxygen for optimal functioning. Laughter exercises can increase the net supply of oxygen to our body and brain which helps improve efficiency and performance. You will feel energetic and will be able to work more than you normally do without getting tired.

4. Builds positive attitude: Anyone can laugh when times are good, but Laughter Yoga teaches people to laugh unconditionally so that they can laugh even when times are hard. It provides strength in adversity, a coping mechanism to help people keep a positive mental attitude regardless of circumstances they are in.

Can someone laugh even if they don't feel like laughing?

Laughing for no reason is the core philosophy of Laughter Yoga. Most people believe that one must have a sense of humour to laugh, but Laughter Yoga has proven otherwise. No one is born with a sense of humour, which is the brain's capacity to perceive, relate, and experience a situation, and judge if it is funny or not. We acquire this judgmental skill as our mental abilities develop during mid and late childhood. Sense of humour is a very mental and intellectual phenomenon. It depends upon the person's intellectual ability, state of mind and level of happiness and life satisfaction.

Children laugh without any mental or cognitive ability. Most of their laughter is an outcome of playfulness and inherent joyfulness. To develop the ability to laugh joyfully once again, adults must remove layers of inhibition, programming and mental roadblocks created by self, family, and society. Beneath these barriers lies an infinite ability to laugh for no reason. Laughter Yoga techniques are effective even for people who have lost their laughter or have absolutely no sense of humour.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of stress.

With inputs from and IANS

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