Concept and Philosophy of Laughter Yoga
Is it possible to Laugh for no Reason?
Contradicting popular belief, Laughter Yoga has proved that one does not need a sense of humor to laugh. Laughter can be learnt and programmed into the body to bring about a complete transformation. Research has proved that just 10-20 minutes of fake or real laughter has a profound impact on life.
It is generally believed that in the absence of humor, laughter is almost unthinkable. But, we cannot depend upon a sense of humor to create laughter, since humor is a phenomenon of the intellect, the mind. Moreover, humor is unique to the individual, their culture, and it varies from person to person. There may be few reasons for us to smile and laugh, while there are many reasons for us to be sad, depressed and frustrated.
In fact, regular conditioning while growing up has led to the undermining of emotional expression. If we notice, children are absolutely natural when it comes to laughing. Their laughter is not dependent on any external stimulus like jokes, comedy or humor. Adults, on the other hand, learn the art of suppressing emotions for fear of being ridiculed or facing a conflict, which proves to be detrimental in the pursuit of physical and mental well being.
How to Laugh Without a Reason
The best part of Laughter Yoga is you really don’t need any “reason” to laugh….Just start laughing. Initially laughing alone may seem awkward but joining a Laughter Club makes it easy. It provides a platform which helps to break all psychological barriers and shed all inhibitions. One can actually feel ‘fake’ laughter convert into ‘real’ and contagious laughter.
Fundamentals of Laughter Yoga
Theory of Motion Creates Emotion
The most frequently asked question is — How do you laugh when you’re in no mood to laugh or you don’t have any reason to laugh? The answer is simple…
There is a well-established link between the body and mind. Whatever happens to the mind happens to the body. If you observe sad and depressed people, their bodies are also depressed. They walk slowly, talk slowly and their body functions are slow and sluggish.
The opposite is also true; whatever happens to the body happens to the mind. I remember my father told me, ‘If you’re sad, don’t sit idle. Keep doing some physical work or go for a walk and jog, you will feel better’. And he was right; I always felt better by keeping my body active.
Even when unhappy, behaving or acting happy will bring the mind to a state of happiness. Bring laughter to your body and your mind will soon follow.
Laughing Yoga uses the two-way body-mind link to change the state of mind through voluntary physical gestures including repetitive clapping, chanting, and specific body movements, together with laughter and breathing exercises.
This effect is so powerful that we have seen Laughing Therapy overcome severe depression in thousands of people all over the world. In fact there is saying in the Laughter Clubs: ‘If you can’t laugh, bring your body to the Laughter Club!’
Laughter is all about Playfulness
Do you know why children laugh 300 to 400 times in a day while grown-ups laugh only 10 to 15 times?
It is because adults use their brain to first comprehend humor and then laugh. This is called the mind to body model or the Humor model. It relies on the ability to understand what’s funny and amusing. For example, the extent to which a person laughs at a given joke depends on how good the joke is, the narration and also the state of mind of the listener.
The only hitch in this model—it does not guarantee how much will a person laugh. It is dependent on conditions like a sense of humor, the state of mind and the quality of the external stimulus.
The other model is the Childlike model or body to mind model. Observe children– they laugh the most while playing. Their laughter comes straight from the body and does not make use of any intellectual capacity of the brain. This clearly indicates that the source of laughter is within the body. One can use it whenever necessary by moving the body at will. The significant feature of this model is that the person actively participates in laughter and humorous activities instead of being a passive participant.
Laughter Yoga and laughing without any reason helps to cultivate this childlike playfulness. Once you learn to play, laughter is a natural outcome. When you learn to induce laughter in the body, the mind just falls in step. The physical model of laughter is easy to practice for most people as they do not feel the necessity to identify with the mental part or the sense of humor.
Laughter is all about Joy not Happiness
Laughter Yoga makes a clear distinction between happiness and joyfulness. Happiness is a conditional response, subject to fulfillment of certain desires of the mind. This approach is related to how your life was in the past or how it will be in the future, but it almost never occurs in the present moment. The sad fact is that even if the conditions are fulfilled, happiness is often fleeting as it is quickly displaced by new conditions (moving goalposts). Do you remember how long you stayed happy after getting that diploma, car, job, or new house that you had worked so long for?
In contrast, Joyfulness is unconditional commitment to be happy and have fun for the moment despite the challenges of life. It is easily triggered by joyful activities like laughing, dancing, singing and playing. It’s purely a physical phenomenon while happiness is a concept of the mind. Joyfulness is the basis of Laughter Yoga. During periods of joyfulness, physiological and biochemical changes take place that afford a sense of well-being, completely altering negative outlooks on life and its challenges.
Laughter can be Programmed into your Body
Did you know that we can actually learn to laugh? Our body and mind can be trained to laugh at will. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle. Once learnt, you never forget it.
Repetition is the mother of any skill. The repetition of any bodily behavior over a period of time leads to the generation of a corresponding emotion in the mind. The brain develops new neuronal circuits for a particular body-mind activity that is repeated again and again.
According to the principles of neuro-linguistic association and to scientific research, there is very little difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. Thoughts in the mind, whether real or imaginary, produce similar physiological changes in the body. When a particular set of experiences are repeated over and over, the body develops a fast ‘knee jerk’ reaction that is triggered without involving thinking and the rational brain. This is called conditioning.
Russian scientist Pavlov’s experiment with dogs is a classic example of conditioning. Every time he gave food to the dogs, he would ring the bell. After several days of repeating the same process, the dogs developed an association between the ringing of the bell (physical sensory experience) and the food. After some time, he stopped giving food to the dogs and just rang the bell. He found that ringing the bell, even in the absence of food, produced saliva in the mouth and gastric juice in the stomach as if there was food.
The brain can be cheated by such conditioned reflexes. Before the conscious brain can rationalize and think, the body starts reacting. In everyday life these conditionings happen during both positive and negative experiences. Repetitive experience of any kind can lead to automatic conditioned response.
In Laughter Clubs members develop positive conditioning of joy and bodily experience of laughter by doing Laughter Yoga exercises over a period of time. Clapping in a rhythm, chanting ho ho ha ha in unison and positive affirmations like ‘very good very good yeah’ are few examples of bodily expressions of joy which are practiced repeatedly in Laughter Clubs.
By repeating these exercises the brain develops new neuronal connections to produce happy neuropeptides and hormones in the body that can be triggered by the repetition of this physical action.
In NLP language eliciting such a bodily reaction is called an “ANCHOR”. By performing a joyful anchor action with the body, the mind can experience the emotion of joy complete with the chemical reactions it triggers.
Laughter Yoga – The Power of Exhalation
Breathing is fundamental to our life. It would be difficult to survive if we stopped breathing even for a few minutes. From a medical point of view, this vital and life giving force in our breath is oxygen. The yogic perspective on the other hand refers to it as a life energy force which flows into the body from cosmic energy fields.
Dr. Otto Warburg, a Nobel laureate said that one of the basic reasons for falling sick was the lack of oxygen in the body cells. This is because we don’t breathe correctly. Due to stress and negative mental states, our breathing becomes shallow and irregular. This leads to lack of oxygen and accumulation of carbon dioxide in our blood which further causes anxiety, stress arousal and emotional reactions.
How do we get more Oxygen from Laughter and Yogic Breathing
During inhalation we breathe in 500 to 700 mL of air and almost the same amount is exhaled. This is called a tidal volume. But there is a huge volume of residual air in our lungs that amounts to almost 2500 to 2800 mL. This residual air is mostly stale and has more carbon dioxide.
Yoga emphasizes that the secret of good health lies in longer exhalation. Exhalation should be longer than inhalation thereby ridding some of the residual air from the lungs and allowing more fresh air and oxygen for the next breathing cycle. This can be done effectively by contracting the abdominal muscles and pushing the diaphragm outwards. Combine this with laughter and it becomes the easiest and the best possible way to regularize breathing and enhance the supply of oxygen.
Mind and Breathing
It is apparent that our state of mind directly affects our breathing. When under stress or upset, the breathing pattern changes. It becomes faster, shallow and irregular. When relaxed it becomes deeper and slower. This unique dual feature of breathing is controlled by our sub conscious mind.
Breathing is the only function of the autonomic nervous system that can be consciously regulated or changed. It has been proved if we deliberately slow down the breathing and take deeper breaths by using the diaphragm, we will experience a sense of calm and the mind will be more relaxed. Therefore, by changing the way you breathe, you can change your state of mind.