Most adults would love to laugh more, but the stresses of work, raising families, and everyday life can dampen a sense of humor. The good news is that human beings seem programmed for laughter. Even before babies walk or speak, they laugh.
Studies show that laughter sparks physiological and biochemical changes that can have a profound effect on health and the development of diseases like cancer and heart disease. Though experts aren’t sure how laughter positively affects health, they’re able to measure its effects on the body. Laughter stimulates the heart and blood vessels, and reduces the production of stress hormones. It can also help to reduce fear, counter depression, promote a positive outlook, generate pain-fighting endorphins, strengthen the immune system, and infuse oxygen into the body.
And a good laugh just leaves you feeling happier.
Where Relaxation Meets Laughter
It may not surprise you to know that laughter comes from a feeling of relaxation. Did you know that it’s impossible to be physically relaxed and mentally stressed at the same time? Through relaxation, your awareness returns to the present moment and opens the door to delight, humor, and laughter. And Laughter Yoga is the perfect way to reap the benefits of both relaxation and laughter.
Developed in India in 1995, Laughter Yoga requires no tricky poses or balancing acts. Instead the class elicits giggles, guffaws, and belly laughs through a combination of deep breathing and exercises that train the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.
Most forms of yoga teach that the mind and body mirror one another, and that breath links the two. Laughter Yoga uses breathing exercises along with laughter exercises to promote relaxation. When you deepen your breath, your heart rate slows down and your body relaxes.
Benefits of Laughter
Research shows that laughter may:
- Buffer you from depression
- Reduce feelings of stress and its impact on the body
- Improve self-esteem
- Reduce loneliness and increase bonding with others
- Improve quality of life, even for people coping with cancer or chronic disease
- Increase immunity—your body's ability to fight infection
- Improve pain tolerance
- Reduce risk of heart disease and heart attack
El Camino Hospital offers weekly Laughter Yoga classes at the Mountain View Campus. Class times and locations are listed in this HealthPerks newsletter. For more information, call 650-988-8338.
This article first appeared in the February 2016 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.