"Most people think they have to feel good first in order to laugh. But you can start from nothing, you can even start feeling unhappy and just laugh as a form of exercise, and happy feelings follow." Jeffrey Briar, Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher

In 1995 an Indian family physician, Doctor Madan Kataria, started the first Laughter Club in a park in Bombay, India to put into practice what he aptly named Hasya or Laughter Yoga ("Hasya" means laughter in Sanskrit). Dr. Kataria was conducting research on the effects of laughter on health and was amazed by the number of studies showing the profound physiological and psychological benefits of laughter.

Armed with determination and a wish to help others improve their health and feelings of wellbeing through laughter, he went to a public park near his home and convinced four other people to start a Laughter Club there. This action was at first considered a bit bizarre by his friends and colleagues. However, little by little, more and more people joined in. Today, his friends aren't laughing at him anymore, now they're laughing with him: laughter is contagious, and Laughter Yoga has swept the globe.

Since the beginnings of Laughter Yoga in that park in Bombay, Dr. Kataria has taken Laughter Yoga to schools and orphanages, prisons, hospitals, senior homes, institutions for people with disabilities, and corporations. In addition, Laughter Clubs have sprung up all over the world.

• There are currently more than 6,000 Laughter Clubs worldwide

• Laughter Clubs exist in over 50 countries, in 5 continents

• There are more than 250,000 people who participate in Laughter Clubs

Benefits of Laughter

Some of the many benefits of laughter are the following:

1. It oxygenates cell tissues.

2. Laughter helps to relieve stress and decreases stress hormones in the body such as cortisol and adrenaline.

3. Laughter strengthens the immune system.

4. When we laugh our bodies release hormones and chemicals that have positive effects on our system. One of these chemicals is endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Because laughter increases the level of endorphins in the body, it's a natural pain killer.

5. One minute of laughing burns the same number of calories as 6 to 10 minutes on a treadmill. So go ahead and laugh off those extra pounds. In addition, laughter is gentle exercise. It fills your lungs and body with oxygen, deep-clears your breathing passages and exercises your lungs.

6. Laughing raises your mood; joyfulness through laughter is the fastest way to create a positive state of mind. Laughter also helps to combat depression.

7. Laughing is good for the heart and improves blood circulation.

8. Laughter is anti-aging! It tones facial muscles and increases blood supply to the face, which nourishes the skin and gives it a healthy glow.

9. Internal organs are stimulated when you laugh which enhances efficiency of vital organs and improves digestion and bowel movement.

10. Because laughter increases the secretion of endorphins, it can help reduce cravings for chocolate and other comfort foods.

Laughter Yoga Sessions

Laughter Yoga does not use humor to invoke laughter; you won't find people sitting in a circle taking turns telling jokes or using humor to make each other laugh. Instead, a Laughter Yoga session consists of a series of exercises which include simulated laughter, yoga techniques, funny gestures, systematic giggling and guffawing, and improv-like activities. You don't have to be happy to laugh and you don't need a reason to laugh: scientists and doctors agree that fake or simulated laughter has the same physiological effects as spontaneous laughter. That is, fake it until you make it.

Although some simple Yoga techniques are incorporated into Laughter Yoga sessions--such as deep breathing with inhalation through the nose and prolonged exhalation, as well as shoulder, neck and stretching exercises--you won't be asked to go into "Downward Dog Position" or the "Triangle Pose" during Laughter Yoga. The main reason it's called Laughter Yoga is because the word "Yoga" means union, or the integration of body with mind and soul.

As you can see from the list of "requirements" below, Laughter Yoga is for everyone:

• Laughter Yoga can be done indoors or outside.

• Some Laughter Clubs meet at the beach or in public parks while others meet in conference rooms, classrooms, hospitals, and so on.

• No equipment or props are required.

• There's no special clothing that you need to wear.

• Laughter Yoga can be practiced by people of all ages and fitness levels. Basically, you can practice Laughter Yoga whether you're young or old; fit or unfit; flexible or stiff.

• Laughter Clubs are led by Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders.

• Most Laughter Clubs are free, although some charge a small fee to cover costs or ask for a small donation.

• A session usually lasts from 20 to 30 minutes.

Laughter Yoga is easy to do and can it help you to improve your health and increase your sense of wellbeing. So look for a Laughter Club in your area and join in!

Note: The quote by Jeffrey Briar was taken from Alternative Medicine-Live! "Laughter Yoga Trend No Joke in California" by Derrick Walker, February 17, 2008.

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For more information on Laughter Yoga visit http://www.squidoo.com/laughter-meets-yoga

From Marelisa Fábrega, Founder and CEO of http://www.marelisa-online.com.