Laughter Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis
Having multiple sclerosis is no laughing matter. However, that does not mean laughter does not have a place in dealing with MS. In fact, laughter yoga for multiple sclerosis may be just what the doctor ordered.
Laughter yoga was developed by Madan Kataria, MD, in 1995, as a way to help spread the word about the value of laughter as medicine. Both in his practice and from his research, Dr. Kataria found that laughter, whether it is fake or real, provides important health benefits.
One great thing about fake laughter is that is easily transforms into the real thing. Laughter can be contagious, and that is easily evident in laughter yoga sessions.
First let me explain that laughter yoga does not involve getting into various poses. You can do laughter yoga while standing or sitting, and it is completely wheelchair friendly.
Instead of poses, laughter yoga involves four basic components: clapping (using your full hands, which stimulates acupuncture points), breathing (basic breathing exercises), childlike play, and laughter exercises. Deep breathing and short meditations also may be part of the sessions.
Laughter yoga teachers around the world (there are about 6,000 laughter yoga clubs in 72 countries) facilitate the sessions, which are usually free. During the 60 minutes you spend with others in your group, you may release your inner childlike wonder and pretend you are a laughing clam, do elephant laughs, mimic each other, clap and shout, and much more. (See the videos)
Why would you want to spend time with a bunch of other people and laugh until your sides hurt and tears are running down your face? Because laughter really is good medicine, says Dr. Kataria.
Sustained laughter, which is the hallmark of laughter yoga, releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers and mood modulators), helps boost immune system function, improves breathing, strengthens trunk muscles, lowers levels of the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol, helps with sleep problems, and reduces blood pressure.
The laughter yoga sessions I have attended have included all types of people, many with a number of physical limitations. They are likely taking a wide variety of medications. But when we are engaged in laughter yoga, laughter is the only medicine being dispensed, and there are no negative side effects!
To learn more about laughter yoga and see if there is a laughter yoga club near you, visit laughteryoga.org.