Can Laughter Yoga Bring About World Peace?

FC writes: “What do you know about Laughter Yoga? The teachers at our Catholic School were planning on a session with the children and then incorporate it into the curriculum.  When the pastor found out, he had the principal cancel it, Praise the Lord.  We have been on the site for it and knew it was pagan but we need something we can give to the teachers who went to a training session for Laughter Yoga.”

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.

3 Response to “Can Laughter Yoga Bring About World Peace?

  1. After coming across this post I feel the need to respond. I am a Laughter Yoga Teacher and grew up in an evangelical household with a father who was a seminary professor. Laughter Yoga is not traditional yoga at all. There is no weird, pretzel stretching (yoga poses) or religious content or context in pure Laughter Yoga as taught by Dr. Kataria. It is basically laughing in a group for an extended period of time. The only reason the term yoga is part of the title is because it was started by a medical doctor in India and in between the laughing they added deep breathing simply because laughing for an extended period is very aerobic!

    What most westerners don’t realize is that the term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word for yoke and simply means union. In India, there are various types of yoga, not all of which are religious in nature; the term yoga is used for many things. Yes, it was developed for religious purposes thousands of years ago, but much has changed. The yoga of breath is called pranayama and that is why the reference to ‘yoga’ in Laughter Yoga. It is really a reference to deep breathing, but a reference that most Westerners do not get. Many of the breathing exercises are not even taken from yoga, but are silly things like pretending to smell your favorite flower & exhaling with a sigh or pretending to blow bubbles on the out breathe. Bhakti Yoga is devotional yoga and thus religious, but it is not common in the US. Even most stretching yoga (Hatha Yoga) at US gyms etc. has been stripped of the religious undertones and is more about health, strength and flexibility.

    Simply put, Laughter Yoga is the union of breath and laughter. To get the scientifically proven health benefits of laughter, laughing must be hearty and sustained, so a joke here or there is not enough (For more information look at Dr. Lee Berk’s research). A Laughter Yoga session or a really funny movie are usually the only ways most people can get 10+ minutes of aerobic laughter. If you are not allowed to breath or laugh in your denomination I would really dislike attending your church! God meant for us to be joyful and take care of our bodies. Laughter is a great way to bond with others in joy and increase your health. Please do a little more research before publishing in the future. If you had watched a video of a laughter yoga session you might have realized that it has more to do with laughing, pretending and play than with your concept of “yoga”.

  2. Likewise, the place where I live, the word yoga wasn’t readily acceptable by the public as it is assumed to be part of the religious teaching. Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder of laughter yoga, suggested the use of the term Laughter Session instead of Laughter Yoga since Laughter Yoga is not associated with any religious teachings.

    Being a certified Laughter Yoga Teacher, I have conducted many Laughter sessions and it was very well received by the public because the benefits are proven.

  3. Thanks for your cheerful remarks, Craig! While I get to differ with you on most of what you opine, I appreciate the courteous way that you present your case. As for yoga being the innocent practice you describe, you may want to read this article by the founder of the Hindu America Foundation. There’s a lot more to it and leading people into this practice – especially the poorly catechized – is not a very safe way to lead people closer to Christ, which is our duty as baptized and confirmed Christians. And if Laughter Yoga is not about yoga, why is it called yoga? Why not call it Laughter Therapy or Laughter Classes? Could it have something to do with the multi-billion dollar yoga industry? SB