“The best remedy for any illness is laughter.” —Sri Swami Satchidananda
Your Health is a Laughing matter! Do you remember Norman Cousin’s ground-breaking research into the power of laughter to heal? How it helped him overcome his own illness? People who can enjoy a good laugh are healthier, and, now science is validating what the sages of old have been saying all along: That a good belly laugh can improve our health.
In April of 1997, Swami Vidyananda and I were invited to participate in a staff “Laughing Meditation” at the New York IYI. We both enjoyed it so much that we decided to begin it at Yogaville. The meditation caught on and now many ashramites, visitors and program participates tickle their funny bones each Thursday evening.
A wise man once said, “Seriousness is a disease.” And, laughter can go a long way in curing it. Modern science is discovering the wonderful benefits of laughter and humor. Laughter releases the body’s natural hormone, Endorphin, which causes the “natural high” enjoyed by runners. It also builds our immune system by increasing our blood’s T-cells, the body’s natural illness fighters and antibodies.
In a press release on November 15, 2000, The American Heart Association said, “One of the best ways to protect yourself against a heart attack is to laugh often and exuberantly… The study is the first to document that laughter and an active sense of humor may help influence heart and artery disease…’The old axiom that laughter is the best medicine appears to hold true when it comes to protecting your heart,’ says Michael Miller, M.D., director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore.”
“Although laughter may not actually cure anything, it does boost immunity,” says Kathleen Dillon, PhD, professor of Psychology at Western New England College in Springfield, Massachusetts. (See Fitness Magazine, March 1998)
Finding the humor in our life’s circumstances can help us develop control over those situations that have been bothering us. The best kind of laughter is enjoyed when we can see our own folly, our own short comings; we are not laughing at anyone else. My deepest laughter comes when I discover my personal foolishness.
Laughing meditation has the power to bring us totally into the present moment. For me, it is one of the most experiential practices I can do. I always leave feeling energize and rejuvenated. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to have you think about a time you left the movie house after a hilarious film. Can you remember the good feelings, the smiles everyone had as they left the theatre? Well, at Yogaville, each week, at least once, we have the opportunity to enjoy that kind of experience regularly, and for free!
There is no need to feel alone in this practice! In the March 4, 1998 edition of the Los Angeles Times, front page, column 1, was this headline, “A Good Guffaw a Day.” The article said, “Across India, laughing clubs gather each morning and force themselves to giggle in unison. Devotees say the practice improves health and that the beleaguered nation could stand to lighten up.” When the organizer of this movement in India declared January 11, 1998 as World Laughter Day, 10,000 people turned out at a Bombay race course to chuckle together! Quoting the Los Angeles Times further, “By the end of the session, everyone appeared flushed, happy and relaxed.”
Fitness Magazine declared laughter as one of the 5 top priorities for a healthy lifestyle. “Laughter RX: At least 30 minutes every day…could chase away the blues.” And quoting Hinduism Today, about the founder of 150 laughing clubs in India,”…the good doctor has popularized ancient yoga breathing and posture that exercises all 32 facial muscles… opens the breathing, builds self-confidence and even alleviates high blood pressure and arthritis.”
Well, most of us already felt that laughter was very good for us without it being scientifically proven. We just knew it! But, it is nice to have science prove that such a simple practice, regularly undertaken, can have such wonderful benefits.
I guess that is why good comedians are some of the most highly paid people in our culture. It is a form of social medicine. Laughter can serve as a “friend catcher;” it can draw people to us. “Most everyone wants to share in a good belly laugh because they literally feel better, naturally, in a few seconds,” says Victor Williams, a Humorosteologist.
So, I invite you to ENLIGHTEN UP! Enjoy the connection between laughter and spirituality. Discover how laughter hee, hee, heals, and creates a deep sense of peace in your life.
Bharata Wingham serves at Yogaville as the editor of the IYTA Newsletter. He leads Laugha Yoga and Laugha Meditation on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 12 noon.
LAUGHING MEDITATION- Some Guidelines
1. Sit, or lie down on your back. (Optional, the group can lie down with everyone’s head pointing to the center in a circle.)
2. The eyes can be closed or left open.
3. Chants 3 OM’s, then begin laughing for 15 minutes.
4. After 15 minutes, OM to stop. Have a 10 minute silent meditation.
5. OM to end the meditation (Optional: At this point the group may share their experience.)
Some Suggestions and Cautions
6. Don’t tickle or invade anyone’s privacy, or space, during the meditation.
7. Don’t judge your laughter or anyone else’s. Just be a “witness”. You might want to try a variety of different types of laughter.
8. If any deeply negative emotions or feelings surface, please don’t express them in the meditation. Just allow them to surface and watch them, and return to laughter as soon as you can.
9. If you find it hard to laugh, try saying to yourself, “Ha, Ha, Ho,Ho, He, He.” Or something similar which will push you a little in the direction of laughing.
10. Finally, if you find it difficult to stop laughing at the end of the appointed time, do some deep breathing and try to connect to your heart. If this doesn’t work, quietly leave the room, in the same way as if you couldn’t stop coughing in a silent meditation.
(“Laughing Meditation” by Bharata Wingham from the May, 2001 IYTA Newsletter)