Ha Ha, Hee Hee: Laughter Therapy, Laughter Yoga

August 26, 2020

Are you feeling stressed out? With all that’s going on in the world — pandemic, civil unrest, job loss, hurricanes, wild fires — it’s difficult to avoid stress.

Laughter therapy, or laughter yoga, might help alleviate some of the stress. It’s free. It offers numerous mental and physical health benefits. And it’s fun.

In the field of psychoneuroimmunology, laughter has been studied and found to lower blood pressure, strengthen cardiovascular function, improve circulation, boost immune function, trigger the release of endorphins, and produce a sense of well-being.

You’ll meet Annie Goglia, a certified Laughter Yoga Leader, who shares her story how laughter transformed her life. You can even join her, virtually, at her Laughter Club.

To delve deeper into your exploration of Laughter Therapy, check out the Comedy Cures Foundation and Association for Applied & Therapeutic Humor.

The University of San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Medicine offers classes in Laughter Yoga as well as the Founder of Laughter Yoga, Dr. Madan Kataria.

For more laughs, check out these podcast episodes: Life After Cancer, Laughter is the Best Medicine; and Put a Pink Ribbon on this Actress


welcome to glass half full with leslie krongold she shares her stories experiences and knowledge of living and coping with a chronic health condition learn about tools and resources and hear inspirational interviews that help you to live a life filled with quality and dignity with two decades of support group leadership leslie’s ready to help you make lemonade out of life’s lemons are you ready are you ready we can all use a little more laughter are you agreeing i mean this is a tough time and that’s coming from a normally optimistic person me most of you listening likely have some type of chronic health condition that presents challenges for you with every day living now if you are more vulnerable like me with respiratory issues or maybe a compromised immune system you’re on high alert during this pandemic even quote unquote healthy people are at risk and maybe you’ve also lost your job or your work hours have been cut or like me your spouse has suffered a job loss which impacts your household and then we’ve got a lot of civil unrest and maybe you’re in the path of a hurricane or the air quality is super unhealthy because you live near wildfires like myself jesus episode is about laughter what am i doing going on and on like this the fact of the matter is we are all stressed out and if you’re not stressed out what in the world is wrong with you okay so we’re in agreement right you’ve gotten stress i’ve got stress people across this whole world are all stressed granted some have a bit more stress than others i can’t even imagine what it’s like to have to evacuate my home because of fires on its trail it’s a totally different enough to crack and i don’t think laughter therapy is the best antidote not yet ironically and here’s how i bring us back to the topic two years ago i was scheduled to interview a nurse about laughter yoga she teaches laughter yoga and meditation at the university of san francisco’s school of medicine

the day before our scheduled interview she sent me an email message that she needed to cancel because her cabin in lake county california was under evacuation orders for the fires the good news is that she’s fine i went to one of her laughter yoga sessions earlier this year pre-coded my intention was to return to her class again and reschedule the interview but that didn’t happen but i do have a guest and she’s in fact the very first person i experienced laughter yoga with

there’s a field of research about after therapy this type of research lies within psych neuro immunology which is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body i don’t know when this term psych neuro immunology was coined but the scientific research has found laughter to be really good medicine some of the health benefits include lowering blood pressure strengthening cardiovascular functions reducing stress hormones and improving circulation increasing muscle flexion oxygenating the body by boosting the respiratory system immune function by raising levels of infection fighting t cells disease fighting proteins called gamma interferon and b cells which produce disease-destroying antibodies triggering the release of endorphins the body’s natural painkillers and producing a general sense of well-being pretty convincing results don’t you think so with all of this stress upon us maybe we should try working in a little healthy so what is laughter yoga it’s a fairly recent phenomenon an indian physician madame kettarian developed an exercise routine he calls laughter yoga it’s a combination of laughter and yoga breathing laughter yoga practitioners do not use asana or yoga poses as part of the routine so if you can’t do a great down dog don’t worry dr catorius started the first laughter club in 1995 and today there are more than 20 000 free social laughter clubs throughout 110 countries

my introduction on laughter yoga was several years ago i probably had read about laughter yoga and then i did a little research to find a local practitioner and that’s how i found annie golia my guest for this podcast episode i was facilitating a monthly support group for adults with neuromuscular disease we would meet at the kaiser permanente hospital in oakland california and annie happened to live nearby in oakland and she graciously joined us one sunday and led us through several laughter exercises it was not until many years later when i attended my next laughter yoga class at ucsf and during coven so far i’ve attended a couple of virtual laughter yoga sessions so anyhow here’s annie my first question and you know i don’t even know if i asked you this years ago when you came to the support group but how and when did you discover laughter yoga ah well i think it was 2005 or 2004 and i was living in the boston area and i i was very i was pretty shy when i was younger and as i got older i realized humor and laughter were things that helped me connect with people and get over that shyness and i i became quite the laugher and people with friends would tell me you should become a professional laugher or i knew you were in the room because i could hear you from from across the room so when so i thought well that’s funny professional laughter there’s no such thing and then i found out about laughter yoga some friend told me like there’s this thing that adults do and they get together and laugh together and i’m like that sounds spectacular to me so i joined a group and near where i live near boston and i loved it and then i moved here about a year later and i found a training and that’s and then i took a training with dr qatar it was the founder of laughter yoga and now i and then i also started to train other people to lead after yoga so that was almost 14 years ago is he in india or is he located in the united states he is in india he was then and originally he was in mumbai but now i believe he’s in the kind of silicon valley area of india and do you actually travel to india to city with him no no uh he does do trainings there but i at that time he would travel to the u.s to do trainings so it was near la and sierra madre oh okay and so previous to this when you said you were shy have you you know in high school or college done any kind of acting or improv or any of that not so much then uh i did i i think it was later on i got interested in when i was in my 30s i started to do storytelling and that’s before and after yoga yeah yeah and that really got me out of my shell a lot and then i started to take some improvisational classes too movement and storytelling improv so yeah it all kind of comes together in life together it’s very improvisational and playful and creative and brings all my fun stuff together so may ask what did you study in in college i was an english major

not literature did you teach did you go and teach after that or i eventually i got a master’s in arts and teaching and i taught for less than a year and that was the end of that oh my god did you hate it it was very very challenging and it was really hard to find a decent job in teaching at that particular time especially in english and so yeah it just did i wasn’t suited to it so then i ended up doing a lot of human service jobs for many years once you started uh you know working on laughter on your own and then discovering laughter yoga how did it change your life i think it’s it’s it’s kind of sneaky it kind of sneaks up on you you practice it the more you laugh the more you laugh we like to say and there’s a lot of things in left yoga that are intentionally meant to help you bring laughter into your everyday life we call them values-based exercises so for instance there’s something called argument for argument and forgiveness laughter so we argue with laughter and then we forgive with laughter and that’s a great way to just remember when you’re having a disagreement with somebody in your life like is it more important for me to be right or is it more important to have a nice relationship with this person i think things like that and then also just just remembering that laughter is a possibility when things are stressful especially minor things for instance uh one time i was carrying a plate of spaghetti with sauce on it down to the dining rooms in the kitchen and i tripped and of course i was in a hurry i tripped and i ended up all over this bookcase bigness and and i was really bummed out because i thought oh my god this is going to take so long to clean up and like first i was really pissed and then i’m like but i could laugh and it was much more fun and so i did and it made cleaning it up much more enjoyable and then one of my housemates was there and that person also started to laugh when he saw what was going on and it just like made both of our days more fun because of laughter yeah and and other things like like one time i was taking my bike out of the garage and i was going backwards with my bike and i started to fall on my back and before i hit the ground i started to laugh and because of that i i really didn’t hurt myself i think it just relaxed me and wow yeah so it’s really useful that’s this laughter thing yeah i mean over the years i have read you know different articles and i know there’s even you know peer reviewed scientific research about the health benefits of laughter yoga or laughter therapy which i’m thinking is kind of synonymous isn’t it laughter therapy laughter yoga pretty much yeah i mean it can be just like kind of entertaining and fun but there is a therapeutic aspect of it absolutely when when did you become a practitioner how many years have you been you know leading people i started leading into in january of 2007. okay mars you’ve been doing it a number of years and have you met people with different types of health conditions where they were seeking it out as a therapeutic you know modality yes um well certainly people have come who’ve been feeling i don’t know about depressed but down you know feeling down and needing needing something to cheer them up i mean i think people come to laughter yoga because they feel like they need more laughter in their lives and so and some of those people may have some mental health issues and they’re also you know people just want to be healthier they want some mode a way of becoming healthier and relieving stress i think really mean stress is a big reason people come to laughter yoga and certainly there’s plenty of stress to go around right now and stress causes inflammation in the body it causes the body a lot of wear and tear and it can cause heart disease cancer dementia so all of those things you know it’s a great preventative and if you have those things it’s certainly useful to help heal so i’ve done it a lot for elders who have all kinds of health issues i’ve done it for people who are on dialysis there was a study that we did i was part of a study that actually went in and did laughter yoga for people while they were on dialysis to see if that would help them and actually you could see their blood pressure on the machine and you could sometimes see it like going down wow interesting now so they were hooked up to the machine yeah and experiencing a class a section of laughter yoga yeah yeah that’s amazing

so you also do it in corporate settings right i have a little bit yeah and so is that are you brought into like hr and is it like some section of the staff and often it’s a manager who’s like i want to bring some stress relief or fun for the staff a way for them to cope with the stress of the job and so i try to always customize it for people so i find out what are these people’s stressors or challenges and also what do these people need to celebrate because life yoga is just about relieving stress it’s all also about learning to celebrate what we need you know and not just the big things in life but so important i think what one of the things i’ve learned from left yoga is celebrating the little things in life so we can say yay very good very good yay over like you know i i got up and took a shower this morning i mean i’m like it doesn’t have to be i’m still breathing it’s all relative though you know it is especially now in the pandemic exactly so so are there are there in your experience are there certain types of people that you find are more receptive i think there’s some people who’ve just decided for themselves i’m too serious i need more laughter in my life or i’ve got some issue and i think laughter would be good for me so there’s those people and then there’s the people sort of more like me who are like oh my god i want a place that i could just laugh like crazy and people don’t think i’m crazy you know um so i think those are the two biggest groups i think that come to us but and then there’s other people too but i think those are probably and is there any kind of generalization you can make about people that just don’t uh you know it’s just not they’re not their thing well i mean truth be told i i’m so i think you were the first experience of laughter yoga for me and then over the years i attended a couple of other sessions at ucsf yeah in person and then since the pandemic i’ve done a couple online classes and i don’t know how much you know about me but i embrace all modes of non-invasive healing modalities and for some reason it’s i’m i have not it just it doesn’t i mean i don’t have an adverse reaction yeah but i’m just not fluid with it yeah i think it depends totally on somebody’s openness and also on their personality i think some people just have a really hard time letting go and getting silly because i think silliness is really and feeling safe enough in the group is really really really important so i think that some people just you know i think it’s as as when we’re growing up we’re told when we’re told to grow up when we’re little what does that mean it means get serious get responsible it doesn’t mean have fun have a good life you know it means so we learn that being an adult means means getting serious and being responsible and those are not bad things to be but it kind of leaves out a whole other part of life so i think laughter local calls on us to have a more childlike approach and to see that to open up that side of ourselves to be silly to be playful and for some people that’s really hard i’m not saying you are like that but for a lot of people that is very challenging and they’re just like kind of frees up and they they’re like oh this is too silly for me or uh it’s too embarrassing um or it feels fake that’s the other thing i hear sometimes yeah i mean i’m you know i’m i’m open to still you know because every once in a while i come back and i’ve often wanted to do a podcast on it you know what works for me isn’t going to work for someone else and vice versa i mean they’re just um many different paths to hopefully the same goal of just leading a better life yeah but i tell people if they feel like that kind of sense of embarrassment or or inhibition to think about it as an exercise i’m doing an exercise for my health and hopefully elevating my mood as well because we still get that we still get the benefit out of it even if it’s intentional laughter even if we’re not laughing spontaneously so a lot of times i don’t feel like exercising i have to push myself to exercise and so this is a form of exercise and so i encourage people to take that bring that kind of experimental or decision of deciding to laugh because i know it’s good for my health and then often almost always people end up spontaneously laughing in the group there’s this sense of safety and sense of connection and and they say that actually most people laugh not because of humor not because of jokes but because they’re with a group of people they feel safe with and they’re just they’re just really kind of laughing just because they’re together that’s interesting so in the in the laughter clubs that you’ve been affiliated with is there a sense of community that’s fostered yes i i mean i i can’t speak for all laughter groups but i i do feel like the woman who ran the group that i went to in boston really worked on that and had regular people and and really tried to get people to share and connect with each other and i really tried to nurture that in my group so there’s regulars and then there’s new people we try to welcome the new people and that’s fine and but i do try to make sure people feel like they get to connect in a real way even if it’s um even if they’re there for the first time that they get to have this connection with a group that’s safe and enjoyable that might be the key for me you know is that in you know it did feel a bit like artifice but had there been more time where i actually got to know the people um and and the idea of like building that safety i mean because it is you know one it isn’t opening up to laugh freely and you know kind of that whole full-body jewelry experience is certainly yeah kind of intimate yeah it is oh absolutely it is and i tell people like to try to channel their their their childlike self that because when we’re kids we generally most kids don’t say oh i have to talk to this person to get to know them first before i want to play with them

i have to know what work they do or where they live or whatever they just like let’s play let’s play and so i try to like encourage that like getting to know people on a different level than the intellectual one or the the verbal one it’s getting to know people on a very human level that’s that’s just like we’re two human beings together we can play together without really knowing each other on that verbal level so are you are you able to achieve that online now have you been doing that it’s more challenging somewhat more challenging but i’m amazed that we’re able to it does work for a lot of people and it we’re still able to do it yeah so i’m very grateful for that for everybody some people in my group don’t come to the zoom and then some people never come before and hop down and and love it on zoom so you know i can’t say you know it obviously is not for everybody but i’d say it works for a lot of people i mean everybody should try it you know no harm done no no no i don’t know anybody who’s died from laughing

that’s a good testimonial

and most people come out of it saying they feel both more relaxed and more energized yeah nice combination yeah no i definitely did feel more energized i mean because you are really exercising your lungs and the one i did online we were moving around a little you know so yeah it is uh oh yeah a lot of movement moving clapping um breathing a lot of yogic breathing and of course laughter and i also do uh when we have a we so we do these playful after exercises we get people to connect and laugh with each other and we also do um some warm-ups before that some physical warm-ups and towards the end we do a time when we just laugh for a minute or two because you really get more benefit out of a more extended lab more health benefit helps with the blood pressure helps with the immune system which we really need right now right yeah

and as a natural pain reliever which is lovely and then uh at the towards the end i do a guided or eliza or i do a guided relaxation because it’s in the evening and we want to leave people in a peaceful place oh yeah that makes sense right you’re unwinding and gonna go to sleep soon so you want to come down a bit

great well thank you so much oh you’re very welcome my pleasure yeah i feel like i haven’t bumped into you somewhere since kaiser yeah i think we did but i don’t remember where that’s another way i use laughter is because it helps my dog my memory when i forget something i laugh and it’s amazing because it kind of it cuts through the brain freeze and i can think better and i almost always remember it what it was i was forgot wow i recommend trying them oh man can you jar that that’d be good wouldn’t it yes you’d get an arp magazine you know you’d make a fortune

hey guess what you too can experience laughter yoga with annie she has a groupon meetup i’ve provided the link in the podcast notes on the glasses website and if you’d enjoyed if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard in this episode i invite you to check out the other links on the glass apple website that are related to laughter therapy there’s an organization called comedy cures foundation that provides therapy therapeutic comedy programs for children and adults living with illness trauma depression and disabilities there’s the association for applied and therapeutic humor which is was founded by a registered nurse in the sev in the 80s 1980s meta organization provides and disseminates information about therapeutic humor and there are also links to the ucsf laughter yoga program and dr kitarya’s website so take care of yourself as best you can and when you’re ready consider exploring how some intentional laughter can help ease your stress thank you for listening to glass half full leslie invites you to leave a rating and review on itunes this helps spread the word to others dealing with chronic health issues for show notes updates and more visit the website glass half full dot online.online

2 comments on “Ha Ha, Hee Hee: Laughter Therapy, Laughter Yoga

  1. “If you’re not stressed, what in the world is wrong with you?!” I love yoga, but have NEVER heard of laughter yoga!

    • Leslie Sep 2, 2020

      Hi Katie, will you give it a try? If so, let me know what you think of it.

Glass Half Full with Leslie Krongold, Ed.D. © 2018