If you live in a big city like Los Angeles or San Francisco, you’ll discover that there are just a bewildering variety of yoga styles out there — there’s Ashtanga Yoga if you want a real work out, there’s Yin Yoga if you want to chill out and there’s Bikram Hot Yoga if you want heat stroke. Add to this list Laughter Yoga. Yes, Laughter Yoga.
For a segment of the 2001 BBC series The Human Face, John Cleese, a man who knows something about laughter, ventured to Mumbai, India to see what Laughter Yoga is all about. He interviews the man behind it all, Dr. Madan Kataria, who argues that laughter is brilliant at lowering stress and improving the immune system. And best of all, you don’t even need mats or unflattering pants to do it. You just need a group of like-minded people and a willingness to look silly. In the video, which you can see above, Cleese yuks it up with a group of Mumbai locals.
“We all know what a good laugh feels like,” he tells the camera. “But what struck me was how easy it was to get started. When you have a lot of warm, friendly, funny faces coming at you, you respond very naturally…I’m struck by how laughter connects you to people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy”
Apparently, you don’t even have to be in an especially jolly mood to reap the health benefits of Laughter Yoga. Forced laughter tricks the body into releasing endorphins too. In Laughter Yoga, as with life, the motto is “fake it til you make it.”
So if you are interested in laughing like a madman in the privacy of your own home, Dr. Kataria has an instructional video for you, which you can see right above. There are a surprising number of laughing exercises available — from the milkshake move, where you pantomime guzzling a drink, to the argument laughter, where you wag a finger, to the Visa laughter where you pretend to laugh through the tears as you open your credit card statement. So go ahead and try it. You’ll feel better.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.