Laughter is the best medicine

Laughter yoga employs games and songs to help get people laughing like they did when they were children
Laughter yoga employs games and songs to help get people laughing like they did when they were children

The sayings are as old as they are well known – “laugh and the world laughs with you” and “laughter is the best medicine”.

So how come not a lot of us adults actually have a good laugh anymore?

Studies show children laugh 300 times a day, while we old miseries only crack a light 12 times.

The events in the UK over the last few weeks leave us little to laugh about but we should really give this laughing lark a try.

One woman in the Falkirk area knows it certainly is good for you.

Morag Wylie (54) is a laughter yoga teacher who lives in Brightons and runs a fortnightly Laughter Club in the community suite of the Redding Road Tesco store.

Her experience with laughter yoga began through friends.

Morag said: “I was struggling with ME and tried doing a lot of different things to make me feel better. I tried laughter yoga and I really enjoyed it so I did the training a year ago to become a laughter yoga leader and now I’m a laughter yoga teacher.

“It has changed my life. It made me happier and allowed me to cope with stress better. It has become a big part of my life now.”

Morag’s Laughter Club usually begins with a few simple exercises.

She said: “We try to get people in touch with their child side by doing some silly things using clapping, songs and games – it’s all about allowing us to have fun like we did when we were children.”

Even if people really do not feel like laughing, the strange thing about laughter yoga is, even if you start of merely faking laughter, it has been scientifically proven that the body does not know the difference between fake and authentic laughter so your body still reaps the same health benefits.

Unlike yoga there are no postures to master, with the yoga aspect coming from the use of breath – several yoga breathing techniques are employed to encourage more laughter.

Some of the common exercises to set people off include argument laughter, where people start arguing with each other with laughter and pointing at each other. Eventually two teams start to argue against each other, pointing index fingers.

Celebration laughter involves getting everyone in the group to come close together and then telling them a secret, like “there’s no work tomorrow”, and then getting everyone to give each other high fives and jump around celebrating.

The Doctor Evil laugh sees people raise a pinky to their bottom lip and chuckle, while electric shock laughter has people shake hands and imagine they have just received an electric shock from touching the person’s hand.

Fall down dead laughter is similar to the childhood game of pretending to shoot a person dead and the victim over-dramatizes the death.

Laughing along to famous pieces of music, like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is also a popular method of getting guffaws going.

Animal laughter breaks down the adult barriers even more, with people laughing as if they were donkeys, pigs, dogs, cats, owls, chimpanzees and gorillas.

Age laughter gets people trying to laugh like they were half their age, double their age or even a little tiny baby.

These crazy antics all have one goal – to get us to laugh.

Morag said: “As adults we have learned to be serious and suppress our laughter, but the world would be a better place if we laughed more in stressful situations like sitting in a traffic jam.

“You start getting really stressed and angry and there is actually nothing you can do about it, so just laugh about it. It can also help people with phobias – help them rewire their brain creating different pathways.”

As well as the obvious psychological benefits, laughing also has many physical benefits.

“It lifts your mood by producing lots of endorphins and studies have shown it can actually boost your immune system.”

To highlight the beneficial effects laughter yoga has had for her, Morag tells a story of her disastrous start to a holiday in Lanzarote.

“We hired a car and had gone shopping. When we got back someone had reversed into the car. In the past that kind of event would have ruined the rest of the holiday, but I managed to stay calm and even started to laugh about it.

“I was either going to let this event that no one had control over, make me miserable or I was going to enjoy my holiday and have a great time. We were soon laughing and joking – my laughter yoga training had stopped me getting into a panic over it.”

The laughter yoga movement is growing throughout the world and Morag is looking to play her part when it comes to spreading the message.

“I would like to train lots of laughter leaders throughout Scotland,” she said.

Morag’s next Laughter Club meets in the community suite at the Redding Road Tesco store at 10am on Wednesday, July 13. Everyone is welcome to come along.