Why do we laugh? It is one of the greatest mysteries of the universe. The general belief is that when we perceive something as funny, we tend to laugh. While laughing, the brain compels us to do two things concurrently. One is visual which is determined by facial gestures that are specific, the second is phonic which produces certain sounds.
Laughter is known to be one of the best exercises for combating stress. While laughing, try to shake your neck, shoulder, and stomach where stress is known to reside. When we laugh, we feel happy and this act of ours releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers, into our blood. Coupled with yoga, it has turned out to be an effective way of dealing with stress-related disorders.
Hasya Yoga or laughter yoga is the brain child of Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician, according to whom, a laugh can be instigated without relying on jokes, humor, and comedy. It is named so because it combines laughing and different yoga positions with deep breathing, a characteristic of yoga. With a mere eye contact, laughter is imitated in a playful manner in a group, which turns into a real and contagious one. This is because the body does not know the difference between a real laugh and a fake one. After combining it with yoga, it provides more oxygen to the body and the brain.
Laughter for All
In today's world, when stress is affecting a large chunk of the population, it has become all the more important to include a little bit of laughter into our lives. Usual forms of exercises can become very boring and tiresome because they involve a lot a hard work. But this form of yoga is a powerful exercise which is low impact, scientifically proven, fun, less time-consuming and cost-effective. It is ideal for everyone, be it a child of five or an eighty-year-old. It does not strain the muscles and can be done by people with age-related problems such as weak joints and muscles. Now, you may ask how is it different from other forms of exercises. The following points will give a clear idea of how this unique form of yoga is different from other exercises:
- This yoga provides a good cardio workout. Ten minutes of a hearty laugh is equivalent to thirty minutes of jogging.
- It improves the oxygen supply to our lungs by flushing out stale air and replacing it with fresh air.
- Since it releases endorphins, it is very effective in curing depression.
Superiority theory, Relief theory and Incongruity theory are the three traditional theories which try to explain why we laugh. Let's study them in detail.
It is divided into two versions: The first one which is the strong claim, holds that all humor contains a feeling of superiority. The second claim which is weaker holds that not all cases of humor contain superiority. The superiority theory was first advocated by Plato and later by Aristotle though none of them made any clear pronouncements regarding this theory.
This theory attempts to discuss the necessary framework and the psychological processes that go in to produce laughter. Herbert Spencer and Sigmund Freud are the two most prominent names to reckon with relief theory. Relief theory is also divided into two versions: The strong version advocates that laughter may occur due to the release of excess energy. The weak version cites that it does not always involve a release of tension and energy.
Incongruity theory is the reigning theory of humor since it justifies most cases of what sums up as being funny. Aristotle presented the earliest glimpse of the incongruity theory. According to him, it is the expectation of the audience and a twist in a situation that motivates them to laugh. At a later stage, Immanuel Kant gave a clearer statement on the incongruity theory, in which he said, "In everything that is to excite a lively laugh, there must be something absurd (in which the understanding, therefore, can find no satisfaction). Laughter is an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing."
You don't have to join a yoga class to reap the benefits of laughter yoga. You can do it alone but it is obviously going to be more fun if you do it in a group. So, try it out and laugh your way to a good health.