My calendar says it was a year ago this week that I first met Kathleen and started regularly attending the free laughter yoga class she leads at 4:45pm every Monday at Om Shala Yoga in Arcata. Each week we gather and revel in the childlike playfulness of laughing for no reason, making up ridiculous games to get us moving around, pretending to be different animals or objects or in different silly situations.
Over the next several Mondays, another class-leader-in-training and I will be coordinating most of the fun. The other newly minted teacher will be leaving the area in September and then Kathleen and I will be sharing responsibility for facilitating the Arcata class. It’s the least I could do to show my gratitude for all I’ve received from participating this past year and to ensure that laughter yoga continues to be offered in Arcata. It is something I commonly recommend to Manifest Positivity clients, particularly those who want to eliminate anxiety and stress.
In fact, the more I do it, the more I recognize the benefits of laughter yoga that are mentioned at the start of each class, along with additional ones that have become apparent through both talking with other class regulars and from studying neurology in hypnosis school. Yes, neurology!
When you laugh, your brain produces endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. We call these the happy hormones because laughter makes you feel good. It’s one of my five tips to improve your mood. The thing is, your mind can’t tell the difference between laughter at something funny and laughter for no reason at all and so you produce these happy hormones either way. That means in laughter yoga class we get together and just laugh for the health of it!
And it’s more than just a way to feel good. Studies have shown the health benefits include stress reduction, strengthened immune system, increased circulation, energy and stamina, stimulated creativity, greater empathy, less judgment and self-criticism, and enhanced emotional intelligence. I swear you also become more attractive to those around you.
I think that last point is the effect of oxytocin, which is associated with the bonding that occurs during breast feeding. My informal survey of laughter yoga participants suggests it is common for others besides myself to be reminded during class of people who used to attend frequently and have since moved out of the area. The familiar space, activity and emotional state seems to be an anchor that still bonds us with memories of our now distant friends.
Speaking of memories of distant friends, I will always associate laughter yoga with my dear pal Jane Allen. While visiting her in Carlsbad, CA in April 2009 she took me to my first laughter yoga class. The article I wrote about that experience is in the Manifest Positivity archive here, and includes a transcript of this video I made with the couple that led the class that day.
Finally, though my hair is not currently long and curly as shown in the photo above, I’m including it because I’ve discovered right now the picture comes up third out of 285 million hits in a Google search for best laugh picture, and second out of 820 million hits if you search in just the images. As we say in laughter yoga class, “very good, very good, yay!”
UPDATE 8/8/12 12:45am: I forgot I wanted to link to an article Kathleen shared with me yesterday called Strangely Charming: The Science of Laughter, published in the Stanford Daily on 4/28/10. It concludes with the following:
It has been said for centuries that laughter is the best medicine, and modern research is proving that adage to be true. While it doesn’t take a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to know that laughing is enjoyable, it’s illuminating to know that the significant benefits laughter can provide both to health and social well-being are no laughing matter. With that in mind, those who fill their lives with laughter and joy really will get the last laugh.
Which reminds me of a saying I came up with last year inspired by laughter yoga: He who laughs last, laughs best and he who laughs most, feels best!
* * *
Dave Berman is a Certified Hypnotist, Life Coach & Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He offers private and confidential sessions on a sliding scale in his Arcata, CA office and remotely via Skype. Referrals and inquiries are welcome. Learn more at www.ManifestPositivity.com or call (707) 845-3749 for a free consultation. Subscribe to future articles from Manifest Positivity:
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/DaveBermanNLPCoach
Twitter – https://twitter.com/manifestpositiv
RSS – http://manifestpositivity.com/?feed=rss2
e-mail – http://feeds.feedburner.com/manifestpositivity/zMUb