Laugh off Stress PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kirsten Schaffer   
Thursday, 25 March 2010 14:59

Laugh off Stress
A new form of yoga can help you relieve tension and stress, by laughing it off.
Cincy Chic spoke with a certified laughter yoga teacher to find out what all of the ha-ha is about.

Have you ever met someone who seems to always be in a perpetually chipper and happy-go-lucky mood? It's a rare breed, but some people can readily laugh off a bad day or stressful situation. For most of us, however, the ability to simply giggle away a tricky circumstance doesn't always come naturally.

With the help of a few exercises, laughter yoga can help you keep your internal sunshine clock ticking, which can actually provide a few extra health benefits. "Laughter is the most powerful way you can deal with stress," Certified Laughter Yoga Instructor Judi Winall says. "You can use it anywhere, you don't need equipment, and it's free!"

When you're in stress, your sympathetic nervous system kicks in, Winall says. This is what helps us "fight or flight," which would have been helpful long ago, say, if there was a tiger running after you. "That type of stress helps create the action to get out of there," she says.

"If someone pulls out on you on the road or perhaps your boss wants to see you in his office, your body dissipates chemicals to help you deal with the stress. When that reaction happens over and over, however, it creates adverse effects in the body," Winall says.

Laughter, however, is a way to counter that stress. When you laugh, your parasympathetic nervous system is engaged to relax and heal the negative effects that were triggered during the stressful event.

As Winall told us, the laughter doesn't have to be genuine. The body cannot tell the difference between real and simulated laughter in order to reap the benefits. Those benefits include reducing blood pressure, oxygenating the blood, relieving mild depression, relieving pain and providing you with a sense of well being. Plus, it boosts your immune system.
"The benefits, though, are felt after you're done laughing. You know how you feel when you've had a good laugh, how relaxed and at ease you are?" Winall says.

And the best part? About one minute of hearty, full laughter is equivalent to about 10 minutes of running or rowing.

"We're taking laughter yoga into businesses and into wellness programs, where it's proven that happy people are productive people. There's better communication, [employees] deal with stress better, there's less sick leave, and they're more likely to work better with coworkers," Winall says.

Laughter yoga came from India where Dr. Madan Katarin created an early morning laughter club of just five people in 1995. When the group began running out of funny stories, he developed a way that they could all keep laughing. These laughter clubs have grown to more than 6,000 in 60 countries.

In a laughter yoga session you are talked through laughter exercises and gentle yoga breathing. There's not a focus on the normal posture exercises you find in normal yoga class.

Winall takes laughter yoga to businesses but also hospitals and nursing homes. It's ideal for people who are confined to a wheel chair because it's an aerobic activity. "It's a wonderful avenue to help them stay less stressed and deal with their [medical issues] in a more positive way," she says.

Winall teaches her classes for free, just as Dr. Katarin did in India. The Joyful Healing Laughter Club meets at the Sharonville Library on the second Wednesday of every month. The upcoming class will be on April 14.

For more information on laughter yoga, check out Dr. Katarin's book Laugh For No Reason and the Laughter Yoga Web site at

Photo courtesy of Judi
Kirsten Schaffer -

Kirsten Schaffer is an editorial intern for Cincy Chic. E-mail her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or follow her on Twitter at More >>

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