ROFL for real—Sunday May 6 is World Laughter Day 2007. Founded in 1998 by Dr. Madan Kataria, this event is now celebrated in over 50 countries, and there are more than 5000 laughter clubs around the globe. Everyone has heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine”—it may well be true. Laughter is an effective way to reduce stress, which is implicated in many serious illnesses such as heart disease, depression, and cancer. It encourages deep breathing which increases oxygen in the blood for enhanced stamina and mental focus. Laughter gives you a boost in immunity, releases endorphins, and gives you an overall sense of well-being and positivity.
Skeptics may think that forced or “simulated” laughter is not as effective as spontaneous outbursts, but they’d be wrong. Research has shown that the body responds chemically whether the laughter is genuine or rehearsed, much like the concept of facial expressions alone causing changes in the autonomic nervous system covered in the book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Whatever else you may think of Tony Robbins, when he tells you to smile when you wake up for a good day, he does have the weight of scientific research backing him up.
So what do you actually do during laughter yoga? The formula is simple. According to Dr. Kataria’s website, these are the steps involved in a 30 minute laughter yoga session:
1. We clap in rhythm while chanting “ho ho ha ha ha”
2. We breathe deeply
3. We simulate specific life situations and replace words with laughter
The “life situations” are appropriately silly. There is “milkshake laughter,” where everyone mimes pouring milk (while shaking). There is “lion laughter,” where the tongue is stuck out and eyes opened wide, while making claws with your hands. “Cellphone laughter” involves pretending to hold a cellphone to your ear while making different gestures, reminiscent of the classic “banana phone.” Well…perhaps they lose something in print. Still, put aside those images of David Brent giving his motivational speech, as you won’t be the only one laughing. Laughter yoga may make you feel like bit of a tit, but give it a go and it could end up making you feel great.
Tittering Torontonians can join hundreds of fellow cacklers in High Park from 2-4 p.m. where the High Park Laughter Club will have a mass laughter yoga session, games, contests and cake (cake is no laughing matter). For those in the East End, Watershed Training will host laughter yoga in Kew Beach park from 11-12:30 p.m. After Sunday, you can check out both of these groups and other Ontario laughter clubs for on-going healthy hilarity.
Photo by laughteryoga95 from Flickr.