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The Chuckle Chakra
Sharael Kolberg | Photo: Cameron Gardner | June 5, 2014
Forget Bikram, Laguna’s Jeffrey Briar says laughter’s what’s hot in yoga right now.
Choosing a yoga class can be like selecting a pair of shoes. There are so many types—hatha, vinyasa, Bikram. You almost have to try them all to see which one works best for you. But there’s one you probably haven’t tried—laughter yoga. Yes, it does sound funny, but it’s for real—created by Dr. Madan Kataria and his wife, Madhuri (a yoga teacher), in Mumbai, India, back in 1995. The good doctor says it reduces physical, mental and emotional stress simultaneously.
Research has shown that laughter is good medicine. Dr. Lee Berk, a professor at Loma Linda University, found that the anticipation of a happy laughter experience lowers three stress hormones, and it’s been associated with dissipating the negative effects of stress, alleviating pain, strengthening the immune system and improving blood pressure.
“Combining laughter with traditional yoga can amplify health benefits by creating a better-stretched body, a better-flowing lymphatic system and a better-functioning endocrine system,” says Jeffrey Briar, who teaches laughter yoga and serves as executive director of the Laguna Beach-based Laughter Yoga Institute.
So what exactly is laughter yoga? First of all, there is no mat, no soothing tunes playing in the background, no incense. Briar prefers to hold his classes outdoors on a sandy beach, with the sound of crashing waves serving as the music. “Traditional yoga involves slow stretching and breathing, and is a self-focused activity,” says Briar. “Laughter yoga often includes more rapid and vigorous movements, faster breathing and is an interactive activity—you laugh with others who are laughing with you.”
If the thought of phony laughing with strangers sounds awkward, well, it is. But you’ll get over it. “Since everyone is laughing together, it may seem a little weird at first,” Briar notes. “But since we’re all being equally weird together, it becomes less embarrassing.”