Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Laughing and Laughter Yoga

There was a sign on a door which was advertising a class for Laughing Yoga (which, ironically, the psychiatrist I was working with laughed at with his patients). Apparently, this is a rather large fad. But I had never heard of it, yet many yoga studios and recreational centres offer such courses which use breathing and stretching exercises for purposeful laughing. The laughter is completely intentional on the part of the individual; there are no jokes or other external humorous stimuli.

Laughter yoga was developed by Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995 as an alternative medical treatment for his patients. On his site, he claims laughter yoga is a great aerobic exercise (fine), but he then states that laughter “is the only exercise that impacts positively and directly on your body, mind and emotions,” (not fine. All exercise, as evidenced by many studies, has positive effects in all of those areas).

Though not the only means of healing, laughing does effect the body in a positive way. And you don’t need a class to practice intentional laughing (though the social benefits of practicing in a group setting would be missed).

One study measured the effect of laughter on employees’ self-reported efficacy and found that, “Purposeful laughter is a realistic, sustainable, and generalizable intervention that enhances employees' morale, resilience, and personal efficacy beliefs.”

Another study measured facial movements in depressed subjects using ultrasound markers, which sounded pretty cool to me. Their findings described hypomimia in depressed patients. However, there is a huge limitation in this study in that the stimulus used to provoke laughing was an episode of Mr. Bean. If anything, being forced to watch Mr. Bean for an extended period of time would make me anxious, angry, and depressed.

In an article, Therapy Is Sometimes a Laughing Matter (Psychiatric News, July 4 2008), reporting on a psychiatry-humor workshop, therapeutic laughter was the topic of discussion:

This laughter and play, he [Dunkelblau] said, then generate "mirth or internal good feelings," which in turn have been found to provide (anecdotally or in psychological studies) a plethora of mental and physical benefits: a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression; an increase in pain tolerance; heightened self-esteem; enhanced creativity and problem solving; improved interpersonal interactions and relationships; a building of group identity; and even an enhancement of memory.

This non-profit site has a great overview of the benefits of laughter and optimism, as well as detailed tips for practicing these things in your daily life.

The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor also has a good site (though I find the previous site more user helpful).

1 comment:

  1. Novel therapies, it's all a bit of a joke, isn't it? ;-)