I love a good laugh, but then who doesn’t? Old clichés do seem to have value. According to a study, presented at the American Society of Hypertension 2008 Annual Meeting, people who practice yoga laughter are able to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Those who practice the art, which combines gentle stretching, playful laughter and breathing exercises, also experience lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels. In essence, we now really know that you can laugh yourself to better health.
Dr. Madan Kataria is the founder of laughter yoga and lead investigator of the study. According to Dr. Kataria, “You don't need any jokes, any humor, or any comedy. You don't even need to be happy. What we do is laugh in a group and initiate laughter as a form of bodily exercise, but when we have eye contact with others, this laughter becomes real and contagious."
The idea originated in India in 1995, with five participants. Laughter clubs now span 60 countries with more than 6000 facilities. According to Dr. Kataria, many people in the United States have embraced the practice of yoga laughter, while Asians have been the most resistant. He further explains that by acting happy, we eventually become truly happy-laughter becomes genuine.
The health benefits come from real physiologic changes that occur in the body with prolonged laughter. For maximum results, laughter must be prolonged, extended, and hearty and come from the core. A session of laughter should last 45 seconds to one minute, which is more than the typical short bouts we normally experience.
In order to prove the benefits, Dr. Kataria studied 200 stressed info-technology employees in India. They attended seven sessions of laughter yoga over a three-week period. At the end of the classes, the participants lowered their systolic blood pressures by 6mm/Hg, as well as diastolic blood pressures. Their perceived stress levels were lower as determined by standardized questionnaire, and cortisol levels were lower.
Scientific evidence that laughter really is good medicine is simply great news!
Source: Heartwire-May 15, 2008