Laughing yoga is a popular movement and breathing exercise that aims to cultivate joy, bring out your inner child, and help you let go of daily life stressors.

Considering that laughter is contagious, it’s no surprise that laughing yoga has grown from one small group in Mumbai, India to over 5,000 clubs worldwide. Though advocates claim it relieves stress and reduces your risk of chronic disease, you may wonder whether it really works.

This article tells you all you need to know about laughing yoga.

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Bob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy United

Laughing yoga, also known as laughter yoga, involves a series of movement and breathing exercises to promote deliberate laughter.

It’s used as a remedy for physical, psychological, and spiritual ailments, as advocates believe that intentional (simulated) laughter can provide benefits equal to those of spontaneous laughter (e.g., laughing at a joke).

Though laughing therapy has been used for decades, laughing yoga was discovered by Dr. Madan Kataria, a family physician in Mumbai, India, in 1995.

Dr. Kataria claims that laughing yoga will help lift your mood, reduce stress, strengthen your immune system, increase energy levels, improve your quality of life, and help you better manage hardship.

He believes that learning to laugh on cue can help you deal with stressful situations by promoting optimism and positivity. Since you cannot always rely on external influences to make you laugh, learning to laugh on your own can be a valuable tool.

Along with this, laughter yoga is believed to help you better manage stress through controlled breathing. This allows for greater uptake of oxygen, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, your body’s natural relaxation system (1).

As adults become busy with life, activities that promote laughter can go to the wayside. As a result, laughing yoga was designed to teach people how to laugh on cue rather than relying on people or things to bring them joy (2).

Laughing yoga is accessible in over 110 countries and becoming increasingly popular online. Furthermore, laughing coaches are bringing laughing yoga workshops directly to people in places like college campuses, workplaces, and senior living facilities.

Summary

Laughing yoga involves various movement and breathing exercises to promote intentional laughter. It’s used as a remedy for physical, psychological, and spiritual ailments.

Laughing yoga is usually practiced in a group setting, such as a club or workshop, and led by a trained laughing yoga instructor that coaches attendees through various exercises to promote enjoyment and laughter.

Most sessions begin with simple breathing techniques, clapping, and chanting to help people relax. For example, you may begin the class by clapping rhythmically 1-2, 1-2-3 while chanting “ho-ho, ha-ha-ha.”

Though it may seem silly at first, the intention of this exercise is to remove any internal judgment you may have and leave your ego at the door.

The session may also include improv exercises, citing positive affirmations, gentle stretching, yoga breath work, and meditation. Collectively, these practices are intended to help you laugh, let loose, and take yourself less seriously.

Summary

A typical laughing yoga class will include breathing exercises, chanting, improv, and aspects of yoga to help you relax and laugh.

You’ve probably noticed that laughing can provide immediate benefits, such as improved mood. However, more attention is being placed on the long-term benefits of regular, daily laughing.

First, laughing releases endorphins and “happy” hormones like dopamine and serotonin.

Plus, it suppresses stress-hormones like cortisol. These effects are linked to a better mood, reduced pain, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and lower stress levels and rates of depression (3, 4, 5, 6).

What’s more, laughing with other people can increase social connectedness and bonding, as well as strengthen relationships. It’s also linked to feelings of security and safety, allowing a person to feel more relaxed (7, 8)

Many researchers believe that the body cannot distinguish between fake (simulated) or real (spontaneous) laughter, meaning you can benefit by simply forcing yourself to laugh (2).

A 2019 review found simulated laughter lowered depression rates and improved mood. The authors stated that laughter exercises require little cognition and don’t rely on subjective humor, meaning most people can easily participate (9).

Other studies have shown that laughing yoga may help temporarily reduce cortisol levels and stress, improve mood and energy levels, and induce a more positive mindset. In fact, it may be as effective as aerobic exercise at reducing self-reported stress (10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

However, some experts argue that the small sample sizes, subjectivity, and lack of congruence between studies make it difficult to know how beneficial laughing yoga really is to physical and mental health. Therefore, more large-scale research is needed (15).

Furthermore, while laughing yoga may help support better mental and physical health, it should not replace current treatments given to you by your healthcare provider. Rather, it can be used in conjunction.

Nonetheless, engaging in laughing yoga presents virtually no downsides and can be practiced by people of all walks of life.

Summary

Laughing yoga may help reduce stress, promote a greater sense of well-being, lower blood pressure, and help you connect with others.

Laughing yoga is growing in popularity as a fun way to laugh and take yourself less seriously.

A typical class involves various movements, improv, and breathing techniques to take your mind away from the daily stressors of life and be more present. Collectively, these practices may help lower your stress levels through deliberate and real laughter.

While more research is needed to elucidate its benefits, there are almost no downsides, and most people can easily participate.

All in all, laughing yoga is a great way to let loose, have fun, and learn the joy of laughing again.