Laughter Yoga is nothing more than yoga with a laughter component, so your pastor was correct to cancel the program. Whatever health benefits a person can get from laughter is in no way enhanced by the practice of yoga except (of course) in the minds of those promoting it.
According to the Laughter Yoga International website, the idea of combining laughter with yoga poses was invented in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria, a Physician from Mumbai, India. It supposedly combines "unconditional laughter" with yogic breathing, and participants are encouraged to "laugh for no reason" rather than in response to a joke or comedy.
"Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter," the site explains. "The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits."
Practitioners of laughter yoga form social clubs that are run by volunteers trained as laughter yoga teachers or leaders. They claim to be non-political, non-religious (how yoga can be non-religious is beyond me - and most Hindus).
Laughter yoga proponents claim they're trying to bring about better health and world peace, which is certainly a laudable goal, but they could do this without attaching it to a religious practice.
But proponents insist laughter yoga has helped them cope with the stresses of daily life and many say they no longer need anti-depressants. Others say it helps fight off respiratory infections like the common cold, flu, and other chronic medical problems.
There has been all kinds of research into the health benefits of laughter. Scientists know that it releases "feel good" endorphins that help to relieve stress and studies have been undertaken to determine its impact on certain diseases and conditions; however, why we need the yoga "attachment" is beyond me. There are absolutely no studies showing that laughter associated with yoga is any better than a good old fashioned guffaw.
Parents in this school need to ask these teachers what exactly they're trying to accomplish - helping kids feel better with a good chuckle, or introducing them to yoga? I suspect it's a little of both, which means they may be back with another yoga gimmick sooner or later so be on your guard!
You can find more than a dozen informative articles on yoga on our alphabetical blog index.