When Rach Cox aka The Laughing Yogini embarked on her yoga journey, over 12 years ago, she was delighted to know that laughter yoga was a legit ‘thing’ in India. Here, she outlines the many benefits of the spiritual practice of laughter
Who doesn’t love a good belly laugh? That immediate euphoric feeling and instant stress release is second to none. My own yoga teachers believe that laughter keeps us in the present moment with one-pointed awareness. In other words, laughter is an official meditation technique! Let’s look at some science and facts with regard to the physical health benefits of laughter:
Longer life: A study in one of the happiest countries in the world, Norway, found that people with a strong sense of humour outlived those who don’t laugh as much.
Laughter as relaxation: A good, belly laugh can relieve tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterwards.
Laughter immunity boost: Improving your resistance to disease by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.
Laughter lovingly protects the heart: by improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow, which can help with cardiovascular problems.
Laughter as a workout: It’s no replacement for a strong asana practice but laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn around 40 calories, which could be enough to lose 1-2 kilos over the course of a year.
Laughter and anger: Sharing laughter is a seriously good tool for transmuting those angry outbursts whilst minimising bitterness and resentment. A super diffuser!
Laughter releases endorphins: These ‘feel good’ hormones can temporarily relieve pain and promote an overall feeling of wellbeing.
Mental health benefits
Next, let’s look at the mental health benefits of laughter. The residual positive feeling after laughing remains with you even once you’ve stopped. Humour helps you to keep an optimistic outlook through difficult situations and disappointments. The famed Tibetan Book of Living and
Dying refers to and encourages humour as a means of coping with grief and loss. Laughter can create a path to courage and strength, finding new sources of meaning and hope. In dark and tragic times, a tiny smile or a little laugh can go a long way.
Big, important, news: you can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance from a situation which can help you avoid feeling
Next, let’s look at the mental health benefits of laughter. The residual positive feeling after laughing remains with you even once you’ve stopped. Humour helps you to keep an optimistic outlook through difficult situations and disappointments.
The famed Tibetan Book of Living and Dying refers to and encourages humour as a means of coping with grief and loss. Laughter can create a path to courage and strength, finding new sources of meaning and hope. In dark and tragic times, a tiny smile or a little laugh can go a long way.
Big, important, news: you can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance from a situation, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and diffuse conflict. This can allow you to see situations in a less threatening light.
Improved social connection through shared laughter can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health. Those are some seriously convincing reasons to engage with your humorous side.
Celebrity spiritual gigglers
And you’ll be in good company too. Which prominent spiritual figures love a good giggle? Well, the Dalai Lama and the late Desmond Tutu to name just two very famous individuals. There is a wonderful documentary on these two fine fellows called ‘Mission: Joy - Finding Happiness in Troubled Times’ which explains beautifully the need for laughter and its place in a spiritual practice or lifestyle.
Sadhguru is another teacher figure who is flat-out hilarious. His videos on YouTube are both imfortantive and side splitting. In popular culture, Russell Brand and Wim Hof both use humour to explain various principles of practice, recovery and wellness. Apparently, we are 30 times more likely to remember information if we laugh! Genius.
The late Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh had a simple ‘Smile Meditation’: Inhale and smile. Exhale and relax. Give it a go! Likewise, Mooji, Eckhart Tolle and actor Jim Carrey are all well-known for their light-hearted approach to spirituality.
And some of the esteemed international yogis who fervently flex their funny bones include Kino MacGregor, Sadie Nardini, Diane Bondi, Simon Borg, David Sye, Stewart Gilchrist, Duncan Wong, Andrew Sealy…the list goes on, and for good reason.
Why do we all seemingly take ourselves and our yoga practice so seriously? In light of the above, I hereby grant you permission to jolly well LOL (laugh out loud) your way to wellness!
How to do it
And here is how. Healing through laughter is something that I am actively sharing and pioneering in the wellness community at large with my raw and raucous Spiritual Stand-Up Comedy.
My own personal journey and observational stories from City law firms to yogini are heart-warming, vulnerable and, of course, funny! I use humour to tackle taboo or triggering subjects such as drug and alcohol misuse, misogyny, classism, mental health breakdowns, trauma and death. Nothing major. No big deal. The standard yogic path, one might say!
My belief and personal experience is that laughter creates space for us to allow a therapeutic process to occur, whilst we shine a light on some of the darkness which we might be experiencing individually or collectively.
Humour provides a different perspective which helps dissipate intensity, alleviate suffering and create space to heal. The practice of laughter can help us avoid ’spiritual bypassing’ (a form of suppression and emotional avoidance in the name of spiritual concepts and precepts) which so often happens with regard to ‘lower vibrational emotions’ such as anger or fear.
Running wellness events worldwide, working with Wim Hof, JP Sears, Kino MacGregor (and all the legendary yogis mentioned above) has spurred this post-covid transformational vibrational art. Conscious comedy was well received by others so why not check it out for yourself? I’ll be making an appearance at the OM Yoga Show in October.
Comedy is a tool for connection, to one another, but also to ourselves. This practice of connection and journeying back to ourselves parallels the practice of yoga, which means ‘union’. Laughing at ourselves is humbling, considered wise by many yogis and can act as a mini ‘ego check’ (something which is thoroughly encouraged in ancient yogic principles).
Life can be very serious at times, but spiritual practices do not have to be serious all the time. In fact, there are plenty of yoga teachers in Rishikesh and around the world who would advocate the contrary.