Scientists have discovered that the body is not able to tell the difference between “fake” and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits as the other. Like regular yoga, Laughter Yoga encourages good health, joy and peace via laughter.

Scientists have discovered that the body is not able to tell the difference between “fake” and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits as the other. Like regular yoga, Laughter Yoga encourages good health, joy and peace via laughter.

by JB Hyppolite

There’s a new TV show starting next week on HBO. It is called “Inappropriately Touched by an Angel.”

Donald Trump just announced that he is going to retire so he can spend more time with his money.

Those two comments are pretty standard jokes that just might evoke laughter in someone hearing them. However, Mt. Airy Learning Tree is offering a six-week course starting May 3 at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, 20 E. Mermaid Lane, which is about a while different kind of laughter.

Called “Laughter Yoga,” this course combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing. In this case, the laughter does not rely on humor, comedy or jokes like the two above comments.

Cindy Payne, 45, is the instructor. She says the concept underlying the course is a scientific fact that the body is not able to tell the difference between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits as the other. Like regular yoga, Laughter Yoga encourages good health, joy and peace via laughter.

“It’s basically a form of play for adults, said Cindy. “It’s a lot of fun, and sometimes just watching other people do silly things or pretend that they’re laughing when they aren’t really laughing is amusing and makes you start to laugh for real. So, even though a lot of times you have to start off by faking it, eventually it does become ‘real’ laughter.”

When exactly does laughter come in to play during a Laughter Yoga session? “There are a lot of different exercises that you do in a Laughter Yoga session,” said Cindy. “In between the exercises in order to get everybody’s attention and let them know this exercise is over and the next one is about to begin, you clap and while you’re clapping, say ‘Ho, ho, ha-ha-ha,” which is deep diaphragmatic breathing and helps to increase the oxygen flow in your body.”

Other examples include: pretending to take a drink and laughing at the same time and making sounds of a motorcycle starting up. “It feels so silly to do it that you start laughing for real,” added Cindy, who got involved in a Laughter Yoga group after reading about it on the Internet and enjoyed it so much that she became a certified Laughter Yoga instructor in 2010.

When we laugh there are movements in the stomach, and after the constant stretches and deep breathing, students are left with a beneficial yet easygoing workout without sweating profusely.

Laughter Yoga was founded in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from Mumbai, India. He’s known as the “Guru of Giggling.”

“Dr. Kataria was doing research on the benefits of laughter,” said Cindy, “and discovered that whether you’re laughing for real or faking it, your body doesn’t know the difference. It releases endorphins and serotonin. The increased amount of oxygen that you take in when you’re laughing benefits the body. It helps to improve oxygen intake, reduces blood pressure, relieves stress, helps with the immune system, and basically gives you a more optimistic outlook on life.”

The practice of laughing can lead to getting over frustration quickly and not taking certain situations as seriously, such as getting stuck in traffic while heading to work in the morning and not getting upset over things that one has no control over.

Cindy signed up for Laughter Yoga leader training at laughteryogaamerica.com. She spent a fun weekend in New York City doing unorthodox exercises. “Part of what we did,” she said, “was go out on a busy street corner and strike poses and just freeze and watch the way people react.” Some people walked by and ignored what was in front of them in a “don’t look; those people are crazy” way while others would take notice, laugh at them and even strike a pose on their own.

Cindy is originally from Pittsburgh but has lived in the Philadelphia for 27 years and currently resides in upper Roxborough. She attended West Chester University and earned a B.A in History and later earned an M.A in History at Villanova. She works in Information Security. For more information about the MALT course, call 215-843-6333.

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