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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Yoga Laughter Exercises Catalyst for Laughing Alone

Jan 31, 2010 08:12PM
by Dr. Madan Kataria

The slogan of all laughter clubs is, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” This is based on a scientific fact that even if you are faking it, the body cannot differentiate between real and make-believe emotions. This is how laughter exercises convert artificial laughter into bouts of real laughter. It hinges on coming to genuinely laugh at hearing the absurd, silly sounds of your own voice.

The fun starts with ha-ha-ha, he-he-he, ho-ho-ho, as you play with laughter exercises to discover what amuses you. Initially, faking laughter may seem awkward, but with practice, your body will become conditioned, and the moment you start faking, it will quickly turn into the real thing.

Laughter yoga employs a voice reinforcement technique based on the natural sounds of laughter. As children, we shout and scream to express ourselves fully, but as adults we have been conditioned to control the pitch and tone of our voice to the point where we are unable to express our feelings to the fullest. The freedom and expression of the voice affects the freedom of emotions in the mind, and vice versa.

Everyone has a distinct signature of laughter that continually changes, according to our state of our mind and personality type. Given the natural feedback between body and mind, by opening up your voice to the sounds of laughter, you can bring about a change in your overall emotional expression.

It helps to keep the following points in mind while doing laughter yoga exercises: •    The purpose is to prolong the exhalation, in order to empty the lungs completely. This will help you to inhale deeply and get more oxygen flowing into the body. While doing laughter exercises, try to keep laughing until you run out of breath, removing residual air from the lungs. •    Keep your chin up; it becomes much easier to laugh if you are looking upwards. It also makes the respiratory tract straight and facilitates the flow of air. •    Spreading your arms out and looking up creates happy body language. Because of the body-mind link, a happy posture facilitates the release of happy chemicals in the brain.

Voice Reinforcement

Voice reinforcement techniques help to bring laughter more easily. Start by taking a long breath and start saying haaaa-haaaa-haaaa-haaaaa-haaaa five to seven times. Then, try to laugh and keep laughing until you completely run out of breath. Another approach is to use the vowel sound Aeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, and prolong it while raising your arms over your head. With your chin up, laugh ha-ha-ha-ha. Repeat the technique, using Aaaaaaaaa and Oooooooo. Do each five to six times and take a few deep breaths in-between.

Voice reinforcement techniques are best performed while standing, but you can also do them while lying down. Some people find that bringing their knees towards their chest helps to expel the residual air more easily.

Breath Holding Technique

The way to employ the breath- holding technique is to take a long breath, raise your arms over your head and hold your breath, while stretching the spine backwards.?As you try to continue to hold the breath a little longer, you will burst out laughing. The position builds up pressure inside the lungs and facilitates laughter; gradually, the brain develops a new connection between breathing, stretching and holding the breath and laughter, and it becomes a conditioned reflex.

Another variation is to keep your eyes closed and take a long breath. Hold it as long as possible, avoiding the urge to laugh. The anticipation of laughter is what prompts real outbursts of laughing. In the beginning, do it deliberately or pretend to laugh; soon, you will experience the real feelings and laughter will be spontaneous.

One Meter Laughter

Stand or sit to perform one meter laughter. If standing, place your feet a little apart and position both your hands to the far left. Then, slide one arm over the other and stretch it to the opposite shoulder, as if measuring a one-meter piece of fabric. Note these three stages: first, touch the elbow while sliding; second, reach the opposite shoulder; finally, stretch out both arms to either side, push your chin up, open your mouth a bit wider and laugh heartily. This technique, which opens the diaphragm, allows laughter to flow easily straight from the belly. It has a cathartic effect as you release pent-up emotions and experience a sense of joy and freedom.

Aloooha Laughter

Derived from the traditional Hawaiian greeting, Aloooha laughter stimulates brain and body as it facilitates circulation and blood supply. It is ideally performed in the morning in bed, upon waking.

Sit up on your knees and place some cushions in front of you. Raise your arms, push up your chin and start saying a prolonged Aloooooo in a crescendo. End it by saying a loud haaa and laugh heartily. Bend down as you do this to dig your head into the cushions; carry on and don’t stop if you’re enjoying it.

As you dig into the cushions, you can also cover your head with your arms as you continue to laugh. This encourages the flow of air and can feel stimulating. Many people even move towards longer, hysterical laughing to experience a total feeling of release and well-being.

Holding Your Knees Laughter

This last exercise helps facilitate the upward movement of the diaphragm by pressing in on the abdominal muscles. It, too, helps improve circulation and stimulates blood flow to the brain. It involves simple steps of pulling in the knees and releasing them as you exhale and inhale. •    Lie on your back, hold your knees together with both your hands and slowly bring them closer to your chest. •    While doing this, push your chin upwards and keep your mouth a little open and exhale. This straightens the respiratory tract and allows a freer flow of air. •     Now, release your knees and inhale while taking in deep breaths.

As you bring your knees closer and push your chin upwards, use the sound reinforcement techniques of laughter. Say a prolonged haaaaaaa in a crescendo and then start laughing. Take a few deep breaths in-between spells of laughter. While laughing, you can open or close your eyes, depending on what makes you comfortable and helps keep you laughing.

Childlike giggling is another great way of breaking into truly tickled laughter.

Dr. Madan Kataria is the founder of Laughter Yoga Clubs; connect at

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