You know that feeling you get after collapsing in a fit of laughter? Your body feels warm and energized, your stress level drops and you feel connected with the people around you.
The practitioners of Laughter Yoga believe that this feeling of happiness and well-being shouldn’t be something we stumble upon accidentally. Instead, they say it’s a habit we should all incorporate into our lives continuously.
Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from Mumbai, India, founded the Laughter Yoga Clubs movement in 1995 with a group of five people. The concept is simple: all you have to do is laugh for laughter’s sake. It has become a worldwide movement - spanning more than 6,000 clubs in more than 72 countries.
Laughing at the CLE
Laughter Yoga practitioners Judy Cashman and Tita Begashaw, who work at Harborview Medical Center at the University of Washington, both attended the Seattle Community Learning Exchange this May. The focus of the CLE was “Peacemaking and Healing: Leadership Practices for Healthy, Inclusive Communities,” and during the weekend, Judy and Tita introduced other attendees to Laughter Yoga’s benefits.
At Seattle CLE in May
“The most memorable event at the CLE was when the whole group gathered together and laughed in a circle,” said Tita. “One of the main purposes of Laughter Yoga is to promote peace to the world, which is identical to peacemaking and healing. I would like more people to participate in a Laughter Yoga group and peacemaking and healing circles.”
Judy also found a connection between the mission of the CLE and the practice of Laughter Yoga.
“The CLE stories and connections were an inspiration for continuing on with what we in our laughter group are doing,” she said.
“It was so gratifying to have everyone join in on the laughing circle at the CLE! It makes me feel we are on the right track. The examples of leadership and spreading the love with comrades is one that rings true for me like our laughter group is doing!”
Why Laughter Yoga?
Judy and Tita organize a group meets every Friday afternoon - outside in Harborview’s View Park on sunny days - to laugh together. Everyone is welcome, and there is a core group of “regulars” who have been laughing together for more than 12 years.
Tita practicing laughter
“The laughter thing has helped me learn to be more forgiving and accepting of others AND of myself!” said Judy.
“Like my friend Kevin quotes, ‘We have to lighten up to become enlightened.’ I would say that at Harborview this laughter 'class' has become quite known, and when we moved to another area of the campus, people wondered where we went. When they pass by our room of laughing people, they invariably walk by with smiles and laughter. Laughter transcends any self-conscious worries.”
Laughter also has tangible health benefits, Tita explained. It strengthens your cardiovascular and immune system, gives your muscles a massage, relieves stress, prevents tension and builds stronger relationships with others.
“Laughter has changed my life to be happy and enjoy life every moment,” she said. “ I have shared this spirit of laughter with all my community members.”
Tita and Judy's laughter group celebrating at their friend Elva's memorial gathering on April 1
Judy said that their Laughter Yoga group will continue to meet and reach out to others to join in. She emphasized that laughter practice can be “led” by anyone and that more people should start their own groups.
“I am still a little shy when it comes to bringing this to people, even those I know, but I think all things come to everyone in one's time, and so I would encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try and then do it regularly,” she said. "It is such a powerful force for good!"