Health Benefits of Laughter Yoga Exercises
Health Benefits of Laughter Yoga Exercises
We all know how important it is to maintain a regular fitness routine and you’ve likely tried many different exercises over the years. We’ve worked different muscles to improve strength, muscle tone, flexibility, and balance. Walking, jogging, jazzercise, lifting weights, tennis, golf, or Pilates - we’ve done it all - but most of us haven’t heard of, let alone tried, “laughter yoga.”
Why is laughter even mentioned in the same conversation as exercise? A good, hearty laugh may make you feel like you’ve done a few sit-ups, but those few moments of chuckling can’t be overly beneficial to your long-term health. Let’s consider the use of laughter as an exercise therapy for seniors that may have a more lasting effect on your fitness and well-being.
The expression “laughter is the best medicine” may be rooted in some scientific fact, especially as we get older. Seniors, and adults of any age, can benefit from laughter’s ability to:
- Strengthen the immune system by releasing T-cells and salivary immunoglobulin A.
- Diminish pain by releasing endorphins and lowering levels of cortisone, the stress hormone.
- Improve heart health by reducing blood pressure, increasing heart rate, and improving circulation.
- Protect the body from illness brought on by stress and anxiety.
- Improve cognitive functions.
Laughter can boost the immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells that fight infection. When you are in pain, laughter might be a good distraction, but it can actually trigger a real physical response as well. As you laugh, your body releases endorphins that can temporarily alleviate feelings of pain and discomfort. Laughing can also burn calories and improve the function of blood vessels, increasing blood flow and improving cardiovascular health.
Laughter vs. Stress – Why Seniors Benefit From Laughter Therapy
Stress can cause a multitude of health problems – from high blood pressure, headaches, and fatigue to diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and heart disease. Frequent laughter can help reduce chronic stress and help maintain your physical and mental health and well-being. Laughter strengthens the immune system, brings more oxygen to the brain, fosters positive feelings, and improves interpersonal skills. We understand the importance of having laughter in our lives for our emotional well-being, but can it actually affect our physical well-being?
Turning Laughter Into Fitness
We understand the positive impact laughter can have, but other than watching a funny movie or getting together with our most laughter-inducing friends, can we actually incorporate laughing into an exercise routine? Laughter therapy for seniors can improve physical, mental, and emotional fitness, despite its somewhat unconventional premise. Physical fitness and mental well-being go hand-in-hand, especially for seniors who can be vulnerable to diminishing social activity as they age. What kinds of activities can turn laughter into fitness? An array of activities can turn laughing into a workout, including:
- Rhythm exercises with eye contact to activate acupuncture points
- Deep breathing exercises
- Laughter yoga
What Is Laughter Yoga?
According to the pioneers of “laughter yoga,” the grassroots social movement is based on the the idea that your body can laugh regardless of whether your mind finds the humor in something. Yoga and laughter both complement the mind-body connection necessary for true overall health and wellness. Based on the harmony of mind/body/soul that is at the core of practicing yoga, “laughter yoga” works to relax the body and become more aware of the present, where happiness can be found.
Seniors should take advantage of the use of laughter activities that don’t require fancy gym equipment or a membership to a fitness center. These top twelve laughter exercises can impact your own health, but can also inspire friends, neighbors, or family members to do the same. Who couldn’t benefit from some laughter?
Top 12 Laughter Exercises:
- Hearty Laughter – With outstretched arms and chin raised, raise your hands to the sky, laughing from your heart. Lower your arms as needed.
- Imitation Laughter – Imitate someone else’s voice you find funny. It can be a celebrity or someone in the room, as long as everyone understands the imitation is all in good fun.
- Recollection Laughter – Recall an embarrassing or funny incident and re-tell the story while laughing throughout. Laugh at the end of the story and encourage others to join you. It’s likely that everyone in the room with you will have a story to share.
- Dyslexic Laughter - Swing hands back and forth as you chant “hahahah, hohoho, hihihi.” Do this for approximately 10 minutes.
- Silent Laughter – Have you ever laughed so hard that no sound actually came out? Practice laughing without any sound.
- Greeting Laughter – Shake someone’s hands, laughing instead of speaking your greeting as you pretend to say “Hello” and “How do you do?” This can be especially fun for a group activity.
- Gradient Laughter – Build from a small, fake giggle, then gradually increase the volume and tempo, until you are laughing loudly and heartily.
- Electric Shock Laughter – Pretend you are getting shocked by touching the other people in the room and laugh every time you jump, making a funny, silly movement.
- No Money Laughter – Turn your pockets inside out and practice laughing as you look for money that isn’t there.
- Back Pain Laughter – Seniors may have some aches and pains, but keeping a sense of humor about them may make them less frustrating to deal with. Lean forward with hand on your back and pretend you can’t stand up all the way, laughing as you do it.
- Conductor Laughter – Pretend you’re the conductor of a huge orchestra; use your arms to direct the imaginary musicians as you laugh to make up for the lack of sound.
- Laughter Pill – Seniors often have to take several medications throughout the day. During this exercise, take an imaginary pill that makes you laugh and act silly.
Laughter therapy may seem a little awkward at first, but include some friends and plan a fun afternoon. The physical benefits of laughter exercises for seniors are particularly significant. Seniors are vulnerable to mental and emotional issues, like depression and anxiety, but laughter therapy can bring people together and reduce the stress that can lead to cardiovascular diseases and immune deficiencies.
Once you’ve embraced the spirit of laughter therapy, consider breaking out of your shell. Host a laughter yoga event at a local senior recreational center or assisted living facility, or invite some neighbors over for a cup of coffee and some light “exercising.” Not only will you reap the physical benefits of the laughter, but you’ll build friendships that may improve your mental wellness, too.