When was the last time you really laughed? I don’t mean a lighthearted chuckle at your favorite sitcom—when was the last time you laughed hard enough to feel all the cares in the world melt away, lost in the moment as an insurmountable surge of glee had you rolling on the floor?
After weight loss surgery in Dallas, you may have heard yoga mentioned as both an effective workout and stress reliever. There are many different kinds of yoga—Pilates yoga, water yoga, aerial yoga—all of which focus on bends, holds and exercises that many bariatric patients may find difficult to accomplish.
One form of yoga has emerged recently as a way for those who find traditional yoga too challenging to experience the benefits of yoga and a good belly laugh alike. Laughter Yoga is the easiest form of the practice, combining deep breathing and stretching techniques with laughter exercises that simulate genuine hilarity, benefiting your body and mind without requiring you to be as flexible as a rubber band.
Laughter Yoga began in Mumbai, India in 1995, conceived by physician Dr. Madan Kataria as a way to simulate the physiological and psychological benefits of laughter. In its 17 years of existence, Kataria’s organization Laughter Yoga International claims to have spread to over 60 countries and 6000 clubs, becoming a worldwide sensation predicated by one simple concept: you can laugh anywhere, anytime, and doing so can have huge benefits for your health.
Yuck It Up at Yoga Class
Because your body cannot differentiate between pretend laughter and the real deal, Laughter Yoga uses undeniably silly exercises to turn the artificial motions of happiness into the chemistry of true joy. One technique requires participants to repeat “ho ho, ha ha ha” while clapping their hands; another asks them to visualize jumping for joy. Each exercise takes up a mere 20 to 40 seconds and continues for an hour long class, combining to help participants shift from thinking about happiness to feeling happiness.
Unlike hatha yoga, which is the most common form of yoga and focuses primarily on breathing, Laughter Yoga focuses on the dristi, or gaze, of others. In this sense, it is less of a traditional workout than hatha yoga is as it focuses on building a sense of community among the participants that provides social benefits and elevated mood.
Though the calories burnt during this activity are rather low, the other mental and physical benefits can be rewarding, such as:
- Lower blood pressure
- Better immune function
- Lower levels of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol
Best of all, the practice can be mastered in only a couple days. The methodology is simple—experts say it takes just a week to learn how to teach it—but the gentle, healing motions eschew the exertion of traditional yoga classes to provide an easy and unusual method of movement and stress release.
It’s common to encounter some difficult feelings as you adjust to your life after weight loss surgery, but practices like Laughter Yoga can be a big help in elevating your mood and retaining a sunny outlook on life. Those who have tried it say that the exercises can be uncomfortable at first, but eventually produce uncontrollable laughter without fail.
Because Laughter Yoga was founded with a genuine intent to help people, most Laughter Yoga classes are 100 percent free. If you’re interested in giving it a shot, try checking out Universal Laughter Yoga’s free meet-up every Thursday Night from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Do Over!, a wellness club in Dallas. Visit Universal Laughter Yoga’s website for details.