The old saying that laughter is the best medicine may seem a bit naive, but science confirms it. Several studies have shown the powerful therapeutic effect of laughter.

The amazing thing is that the brain does not notice the difference between a genuine laugh and a forced laugh. And let that be precisely the power of laughter yoga.

Laughter provides both an energy boost and deep relaxation. A double win during stressful and tiring days!

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The origins of laughter yoga

In 1995, Dr. Kataria, an Indian physician, decided to write an article for his monthly health magazine on laughter. While preparing it, he came across a wealth of scientific information on the benefits of laughter for the body and mind.

In particular, the book “Anatomy of an Illness” by Norman Cousins caught his attention, as well as the research of Dr. Berk, an immunologist at Loma Linda University in California. Deeply inspired by this readings, and being a man of action, he immediately decided to test the impact of laughter in practice.

And so he set up his first small group of laughers in a park in Mumbai. Laughing at jokes. But soon the jokes ran out….

Still, Dr. Kataria was determined to explore the benefits of laughter further. He started reading up further and discovered that even if you pretend to be happy, your body and brain do not tell the difference.

The health benefits are the same whether you actually laugh or just do an exercise that forces you to laugh. The body responds in exactly the same way: by producing the same “happiness chemistry,” the same hormones.

From there, Dr. Kataria developed the concept of laughter yoga: a series of group exercises, combined with yogic breathing, to generate the benefits of laughter. By bringing more oxygen to the body and brain, we feel healthier and more energetic.

Launched in 1995 with just five people in a public park, laughter yoga has grown into a worldwide movement with 6,000 clubs in more than 70 countries. And even the corporate world has discovered these beneficial and fun sessions.

Teambuilding fun et original en entreprise : yoga du rire avec Yoga@Office - lachyoga - laughter yoga

But what exactly are the benefits of laughter?

Laughter increases the secretion of the happiness and pleasure hormones endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. It has a direct effect on lowering cortisol levels in the body. This reduces the effects of stress and boosts the immune system. Our mood is more balanced.

And when we feel good, we act good.

Laughter also affects breathing. The brain needs 25% more oxygen than the other organs of the body. The stresses and strains of everyday life lead to shallow breathing. Lack of oxygen to the cells is a major cause of many health problems.

During a laughter yoga session, you breathe out longer. By releasing the diaphragm, more air is released into the body. When we laugh, we exhale CO2, i.e. saturated air, and the body receives fresh oxygen.

Moreover, a laughter yoga session engages many muscles of the body and the internal organs receive a massage thanks to the movements of the diaphragm. Therefore, it is as effective as a sports or yoga session. You can think of it as a form of inner jogging that lowers blood pressure, reduces pain and boosts the immune system.

Laughter is an invitation for the mind to relax. It gives you more self-confidence and helps you develop a positive outlook on life. After all, laughter is contagious and an excellent way to connect with others.

“Actually this is the easiest way to disconnect your thinking mind. You get in touch with your inner self. This is what the purpose of meditation is. When you’re laughing you can’t think.”

– Dr Kataria

Teambuilding fun et original en entreprise : yoga du rire avec Yoga@Office - lachyoga - laughter yoga

Some scientific studies demonstrating the effects of laughter

Earlier we mentioned Dr. Lee Berk, an immunologist at the University of Loma Linda in California. He has spent decades researching the effects of laughter on the body and on hormone regulation. He and his colleagues found that laughter helps the brain regulate stress hormones.

There are two other very revealing studies.

The first* compares laughter yoga to anti-anxiety drugs. This study involved patients suffering from anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome. The researchers stated, “The present results showed that laughter yoga is more effective than anxiety-inhibiting medication in reducing gastrointestinal symptoms in patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and in improving the quality of life of these patients.”

The second study* was conducted at the University of Maryland showing that laughter can protect against heart disease by improving blood vessel function.

Teambuilding fun et original en entreprise : yoga du rire avec Yoga@Office - lachyoga - laughter yoga

What role does laughter play in the workplace?

Overloaded schedules, pressure to perform, tensions between colleagues and daily worries are all sources of stress and fatigue. These stresses and conflicts unfortunately have a well-known impact on business productivity.

Laughter is an antidote, both in the short and long term. It immediately eases the mental burden. When we laugh, we create a positive mental attitude that makes it easier to deal with difficult situations. The relaxation that laughter brings increases creativity, innovation and communication skills. Self-confidence is also boosted by releasing all inhibitions.

In an HBR article titled “Leading with Humour”* , Alison Beard writes:

“Laughter relieves stress and boredom, increases engagement and well-being and encourages not only creativity and cooperation, but also analytical precision and productivity.”

Laughter yoga workshops are an effective means of keeping relationships in the workplace fresh and vital. Laughter and play add a special element to building strong and lasting relationships, which is ideal for teambuilding programs. Laughter is a positive energy that can bring people together in a non-threatening, non-competitive way.

Not only does the individual benefit from the health benefits of laughter, but it also creates a strong team that helps the company thrive.

According to the science of NLP (neurolinguistic programming), people connect best with people who are similar to them. The main bonding factor in a laughter yoga session is laughing and breathing together. Although each participant is unique, with their own beliefs and thought patterns, laughter creates a sense of community and belonging.

By laughing together, team cohesion and the will to work together are strengthened, all in a playful environment. More energy and enthusiasm are evident after a session!

How goes a laughter yoga session in practice?

The session has a thoughtful structure for optimal experience and results.

On the menu are:

  • physical warm-up exercises combined with breathing exercises
  • stretching exercises
  • laughter exercises to release inhibitions and shyness
  • all this in preparation for the climactic experience of (crazy) laughter
  • with a moment of relaxation in conclusion.

There are people who are reluctant to participate spontaneously in this type of session. That’s why some of our clients only reveal the theme at the very last minute, as a surprise. The team just knows that they are going to participate in a teambuilding moment!

Anyway, the structure of the laughter yoga sessions allows for gentle and gradual release. These sessions are led by teachers who went through specific training and are experienced in managing groups.

Teambuilding fun et original en entreprise : yoga du rire avec Yoga@Office - lachyoga - laughter yoga

Everyone is equal when it comes to laughter: employees, workers, managers – it’s also a great way to bring them closer together! In a laughter yoga session, there is no judgment: we laugh at nothing and we don’t ridicule anyone.

In summary, how can these types of sessions be integrated into a workplace wellbeing program?

Depending on what you want and need at that moment, this can be done in different ways:

  • a session in preparation for a busy – or stressful – period ahead;
  • as a one-time event as part of a teambuilding project or professional development day; or as part of a stress management program;
  • or in the form of short, virtual sessions, for example, prior to a weekly or monthly meeting. To then move on with a completely different state of mind.
Teambuilding fun et original en entreprise : yoga du rire avec Yoga@Office - lachyoga - laughter yoga
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