Laughter is the Best Medicine! The Health Benefits of Laughter Yoga
With snow falling from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South, and the polar vortex keeping millions of Midwesterners and Easterners inside, it's been understandably difficult lately to cultivate a sunny mood. But even if there aren't any blue skies and warm days in the forecast, trying out a unique type of yoga could help you develop a more positive mind-set – and improve your health in the process.
Based on the observation that the body can't tell the difference between real laughter and fake laughter, Indian medical doctor Madan Kataria developed laughter yoga in 1995 as a method to harness the health benefits of a good giggle. Laughter has the power to boost endorphins, decrease stress levels, and lower blood pressure, which can all help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. So in honor of American Heart Month, we've decided to try it out for ourselves.
There are laughter yoga clubs in almost every state in the US (look yours up here), and best of all, they're free. Most laughter yoga sessions begin with slow clapping and deep breathing to warm up the body and lungs, and then move into exercises in which participants simulate laughter until their giggles become contagious and they find themselves doing the real thing. Physical exercises and free play come next, to oxygenate the body, boost energy, and further promote a positive mind-set.
Of course, this isn't for everyone, and if the thought of fake-laughing in front of a room of strangers makes you want to stay right at home, then a session of phone or Skype laughter yoga might be a good first step. Free and open to everyone, you simply dial in, follow the coach's directions, and laugh away. And laughter yoga isn't the only type of yoga you can sample in the comfort of your own house – pick up a beginner's yoga DVD and start enjoying the time-tested benefits of physical poses and postures. Even the biggest snowstorm will be no excuse not to practice!