“LOL” may be one of the most common phrases in text messaging lingo these days, but when was the last time you really laughed out loud? According to the Boston Globe, a growing number of people are doing just that, in something called Laughter Yoga Clubs. The clubs are based on an exercise routine developed by Madan Kataria. He’s an Indian doctor who’s known around the world as the “Guru of Giggling.” There aren’t any jokes or comedians at these meetings. Instead, each Laughter Yoga session begins with a group introduction, where everyone shouts out their name in turn - then lets out a loud chorus of chuckles, cackles, or hee-haws! That’s followed by a series of miming exercises.
For example: Members may be asked to pretend they’re skating on slick ice, dunking a basketball, or catching a fly ball. Another exercise has everyone line up with their hands in the air. Then they all sway from side to side - to mimic the rumbling motion of a trolley car. As everyone moves, they’re encouraged to laugh out loud as much as possible.
What’s the point of all this laughing? It’s about getting healthy. Many studies have shown that laughter can help lower blood pressure and stress, and reduce your risk for developing disease. Also, every Laughter Yoga meeting includes an extended session of “deep laughing” – which forces people to use their full diaphragm. Not only does that give the abdominal muscles a workout, research shows that deep laughing can strengthen the lungs, and give your immune system a boost.
So far, there are more than 6,000 of these so-called “giggle gatherings” meeting around the world. Most people admit it feels strange at first, to force themselves to laugh at nothing, but once they get over the initial weirdness of it all, many find themselves laughing more on their own in normal life. If you’d like to go further, or find a laughing club near you, check out Laughter Yoga International’s website at LaughterYoga.org.