December 13, 2013
The combination of laughter and yoga is helping many Perth people live a happy and stress-free life.
Through feel-good techniques and a strong community presence, members are encouraged to forget their worries and just have a laugh.
Laughter Yoga Australia and New Zealand CEO, that is Chief Excitement Officer, Merv Neal says laughter yoga is about having a good belly laugh without the jokes.
“The laughter yoga process is a systematic approach to enable people to laugh for no reason,” he says.
“We put the body into a simulated laughter process, which tricks the brain into thinking we’re having a good time.
“Then, the brain releases … endorphins and once those … are released into the body, we start to genuinely laugh.”
Mr Neal is no stranger to laughing and used it to cope with aplastic anemia, a blood disorder where bone marrow does not make enough blood cells in the body.
“I was given a week to live and I laughed to myself to help when the doctors said it couldn’t be done,” he says.
Mr Neal says laughter yoga is a very powerful medicine that helps to heal and cure.
Pranayama yoga breathing (which refers to the energy source in the middle of our body) and laughter exercises help to unite the body with the mind and spirit.
According to a 2012 Deakin University study of psychological effects of laughter yoga in business, the impact of laughter yoga is immediate on improving general life satisfaction, general mood, personal wellbeing, self-esteem and optimism.
Deakin researcher Melissa Weinberg conducted the study and says laughter yoga decreases stress, depression and anxiety levels.
“We were bringing people together in their lunch time and having them laugh to boost their mood,” Dr Weinberg says.
“Even if it’s simulated laughter, it still has an effect as those individuals never relapsed into their old habits when laughter yoga was taken away.”
Mr Neal says workplace wellbeing continues to rise even after a laughter yoga session.
He says many people suffer stress at work, but some are recognising the signs and looking to laughter yoga for a solution.
“… McDonald’s is paying their staff to go on laughter yoga training,” he says.
“And if they go, they get a pay increase.”
Annie Hill and her husband Richard operate three McDonald’s restaurants in Beechboro, Ellenbrook and Northam.
“If I go into the store I get [staff members] to put their hands up and we go ‘Ho ho ha ha ha’, so that’s like a greeting for each other,” Ms Hill says.
“It’s just a nice way of communicating that puts emotion into it as well as breaking down the hierarchy so that we work as a team.”
Ms Hill says laughter yoga exercises are suitable for all her employees.
“We’ve got people from 14 to 65 years of age in our organisation and they can all laugh,” she says.
“It can touch any age, nationality, any physical disabilities or emotional disabilities – and it doesn’t cost anything.”
Perth Laughter Club founder Grant Stone says laughter yoga exercise helps to form communities.
“It’s good for building a sense of individual spirit, but it’s great for building a community spirit,” Mr Stone says.
Laughter yoga teacher Bernadette McGree works with a lot of organisations includingAustralia Post, Ernst and Young, Westpac and the Leukemia Foundation.
Ms McGree says laughter is somehow not expected in the workplace, even though it helps to relieve stress.
“They don’t usually go to work to laugh or they don’t expect to go to work and spend some of their day laughing and yet it’s extremely good for them,” she says.
Mr Neal says laughter yoga can also be a substitution for other exercise programs.
“Air volume, blood circulation, the sweating – it enables the body to get rid of the waste through the skin,” he says.
“It’s not a strenuous workout on the limbs – so people can do this in wheelchairs, in aged care facilities or people who are a little bit older with certain limitations to aerobic exercises will still get the same benefits as if they were doing one of the other exercise programs.”
Laughter yoga was founded by Mandan Kataria, a medical doctor from India, in 1995.