By Megy Karydes
Yoga is nothing to laugh about—or is it?
While the health benefits of yoga and meditation are well documented, laughter yoga goes one step further by incorporating the power of laughter with various yoga poses. The practice is based on the idea that voluntary laughter has the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. And laughter has been said to help with everything from depression and stress to improving one’s immune system.
Laughter yoga might sound hokey, but before you dismiss it, consider this: More hospitals and health centers are inviting laughter into their programs as a way to help their patients.
Kelly A. Walsh, MS, LCPC, coordinator of the Integrative Therapy Department at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, worked with Lynda Tourloukis, an independent certified laughter yoga master trainer, to work with a small group of cancer patients and survivors at her hospital in late February.
“In postpresentation evaluations the patients reported an increase in their [positive] mood state, a decrease in any stress they may have felt prior to the group and a sense of camaraderie with the other group participants,” Walsh says. “We felt Lynda’s program would be a good fit for our patients, as the Integrative Therapy Department is always striving to improve patients’ quality of life and their sense of well-being in mind, body and spirit throughout their cancer journey.”
Laughter yoga was coined by Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from India, as an exercise routine to complete a well-being workout. Known as the guru of giggling, Kataria began the laughter yoga movement in a public park in Mumbai in 1995. The laughter has been contagious. The practice has grown to more than 6,000 laughter yoga clubs in 100 countries—including about a dozen clubs in the Chicago area.
For those who want to learn how to engage in funergy (how, through fun, one creates new energy) or to celebrate National Humor Month (April, in case it’s not on your calendar) or how to create laughter yoga sessions for groups and organizations including those for seniors and children, Tourloukis is hosting a two-day event in Park Ridge on April 18 and 19.
Laughter yoga isn’t a treatment that most doctors would prescribe, even though medical research supports the health and wellness benefits of laughter. Part of the reason is that not enough research has been done specifically on laughter yoga. That’s slowly changing.
A pilot study reported in 2012 in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine suggests that laughter yoga may improve heart-rate variability and some beneficial aspects of improved mood. The small study, which researchers deemed promising and worthy of further research, was conducted with outpatients awaiting organ transplants.
With more information on the benefits of laughter yoga, physicians and patients might find their a-ha-ha moment for happier, healthier well-being.