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How Laughter Yoga Can Benefit Seniors

a man laughs as he practices laughter yoga

There’s a reason we’ve all heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Laughing can provide everything from stress relief, improved circulation and muscle relaxation to actual pain relief. In fact, laughter has been shown to improve senior health overall. So it’s no joke that more and more people are taking laughter yoga seriously as a beneficial form of exercise. Learn more about this modern movement in our blog below.

What is laughter yoga?

Based on the idea that laughter is good for our health, whether it’s spontaneous or voluntary, laughter yoga (or hasya yoga) was first developed in 1995, by Dr. Madan Kataria (with help from his wife Madhuri, who was a yoga teacher). Dr. Kataria noticed that patients who should have been improving, weren’t — and he noticed their bad moods. So he began studying the effect of intentionally practicing laughter for benefit. Laughter yoga is based in science, featuring breathing exercises along with activities to induce laughter, both of which stimulate the diaphragm and abdominal muscles and increase oxygen levels. This helps the body calm and relax, decreasing stress levels and raising endorphin levels.

To see significant (meaning at a level that can be scientifically proven) benefits of laughing with the breathing exercises of yoga, we need to laugh continuously for an extended period of time, up to 10-15 minutes. That’s where laughter yoga exercises come in. This is not your typical yoga; it’s beneficial for people of all ages, but it’s especially helpful for seniors who may have physical limitations that keep them from doing other types of yoga.

How does laughter yoga work?

Don’t worry, laughter yoga is not just an awkward, free-for-all laughfest. A typical class usually begins with warm-ups to help participants relax before interacting. From there, guided stretching and deep breathing exercises combine with purposeful laughing techniques. It may sound hard to laugh with intention, but try stifling a fake laugh and see how long it takes (or doesn’t take) to laugh for real. It’s easier than you might think!

Like other forms of yoga, practicing laughter yoga wraps up with time for relaxation and affirmations. Today, the practice has become so popular (for all ages, not just senior health) that there are laughter yoga clubs all over the world. It’s easy to see why; since the pandemic began, there is often less to laugh about these days. More and more, people are looking for ways to cope with anxiety and stress, and connect with others.

Where can you try laughter yoga?

Laughter yoga is a form of alternative medicine, so local classes through a health club are not covered by traditional Medicare. However, if you have a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C), you may qualify for access to free fitness offerings through a SilverSneakers membership.

But for residents at Westminster, laughter yoga exercises are part of our multidimensional wellness programming designed to build relationships, challenge oneself, and feel great, inside and out. Why not see for yourself how fun senior independent living can be? To discover why Westminster is Austin’s premier Life Plan community and learn more about the popular form of senior wellness known as laughter yoga, contact us today.