You’ve heard of laughter, and you’ve heard of yoga…but have you heard of Laughter Yoga?
With a recent rise in popularity, laughter yoga is becoming quite popular amongst adults to reduce stress and increase fun in their daily lives. Basic yoga poses and stretches are matched with an intentional laugh. Inevitably, the intentional laughter turns to spontaneous laughter, so you end up having no choice but to join in. It is contagious, and not in a bad way! The poses are easy to do, and are especially accessible for seniors, or people with limited mobility. Laughter yoga’s foundation is imaginative and creative so the poses may look like acting out that you are driving a motorcycle while laughing to the rhythm of a revving engine. It can all seem a bit silly at first but after participating in a few poses you begin to genuinely enjoy yourself. It brings you back to childhood where nobody cared how silly you looked or questioned your imaginative playfulness. Do you remember the weird scenarios you used to roleplay when you were with your childhood friends at the park?
Laughter yoga can help to balance our stress hormone – cortisol. In similar ways to aerobic exercises, laughter yoga can help reduce your blood pressure, increase your oxygen levels, and activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is your body’s way to help you relax. There are even studies that show positive effects on diabetes, cancer, and mental health disorders. Families who participate it these types of playful activities often note that their children sleep better and are less like to be fussy on days with silly and creative outdoor play. Another hormone – oxytocin – is released when parents play in a meaningful way with their children. Oxytocin aids in bonding and can even help relax your body and mind. It seems like laughter really is the best medicine!
I bet you did not pay attention to the fact that your time, as a child, at the playground was healthy and full of strength building exercises! It is probably rare that a child leaves the park thinking, “Oh wow, I did a lot of aerobic exercise and deep restorative breathing!” But that is exactly what a day at the playground is…playful exercise, much like yoga, with lunges, overhead stretches, and fun! For parents, sometimes this is the weekly exercise. The physical and mental health benefits to playing with your child at the park is often overlooked. Making a conscious effort to incorporate humour into your day, via play, can also improve the quality of your relationships with your children while helping them learn concepts like irony or fun sarcasm. (Insert eyeroll here)
You must wonder if laughter yoga would be a thing if we did not begin to limit our fun as we grew up. What if we never stopped going to the playground? What if it was socially acceptable to have big belly laughs everywhere we went without fear of being labelled as immature? What if we did not have to start with fake laughter to get to real laughs? I bet if we all met up at the park and ran around roaring like lions someone would call the police. But a 2-year-old does it and suddenly it’s cute again! At what age did it become unacceptable to play pretend or act out silly gestures?
By adulthood, we are taught that silliness is not appropriate. But ask a child to pretend they are soaring through the sky like a bald eagle, while laughing like a mad-man, and for the most part they will joyfully play along. Laughter yoga is essentially what children do all day long without prompting. Playgrounds are full of laughter, and full of stretching too! They are, by default, a free laughter yoga studio! We could all benefit by spending more time with children in such a carefree way.
So, the next time you are at the playground (or for us introverts, in the car), have some playful time with the children in your lives. Roar like a dinosaur, stomp around like a monster, and maybe even laugh as loud as you can! Let the children direct their own version of laughter yoga and see how much added joy, and added health benefits, comes your way via laughter and play.