What The Heck Is Laughter Yoga?

Yoga or meditation can be very off-putting for someone has lead a sedentary lifestyle. When yoga is featured on Western media, it usually showcases the very difficult contortions masters can do. Yoga is kind of a moving meditation, and meditation can often put beginners to sleep. With Laughter Yoga (Hasya Yoga), you get a lot of the physical and emotional benefits of yoga without the risk of pulling muscles.

A Brief History

Laughter yoga was created by Dr. Mandan Katarina in 1995. A family physician in India, he opened the first Laughter Yoga Club in the world. Now, just over a decade later, there are over 5,000 such Laughter Yoga Clubs in the world. Laughter Yoga has been featured on "Ophrah Winfrey" and NBC News. Comedic British actor John Cleese has even participated.

What's The Point?

Dr. Katarina wanted a way for people to exercise and reduce stress without having to worry about offending any religions, cultures or political alliances. Yoga in India (and in many other countries of the world) is heavily tied into Hinduism. There's even been a movement in America to make Yoga Chrisitan, which has been the target of a lot of scorn. Laughter Yoga just gets you to exercise without worrying about the more metaphysical side of life.

Another plus for this very young school of yoga is that almost anyone of varying physical abilities can attend and enjoy. Some very difficult branches of yoga emphasize the need to twist your body into incredibly painful positions, including shoulder-stands and splits. This is very off-putting, especially for a beginner, for someone obese or for the aged. In Laughter Yoga, the movements are easy and just a little silly.

What A Typical Session Is Like

A typical session is only about a half hour long - just enough to break a sweat but not knock you out. You usually begin with rhythmic breathing, clapping, swimming your arms and then doing a fake laugh (which acts as a mantra). Oddly enough, even if you don't feel like laughing at the session's beginning, you often are genuinely laughing by the session's end.

There isn't a set routine of asanas (or positions) to do, as in some other branches of yoga. The leader usually takes in the physical needs and abilities of the class or group and then just makes it up. In one session, you may be flapping your arms, bending at the waist, or doing Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks" sketch.