Laughter Yoga for Seniors
By Pradep Nair, Laughter consultant at HomeWell Senior Home Care of Morris County, NJ
Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine which combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing. Anyone can laugh without relying on humor, 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 visualization 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 25-30 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 humor to laugh, but Laughter Yoga has proven otherwise. No one is born with a sense of humor, 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 humor 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 humor.