Laughter Yoga, An Added Skill To The Mix - by Jane Wigg, RGN, MSc, Lymphoedema Clinical Expert

We all need a good laugh, right? So, is laughter really the best medicine? Well, it just so happens that it is!


Do you know that laughter has been used as medicine for hundreds of years? Maybe we just didn’t know it. What do you think has kept you away from the doctor's door? Are ‘those’ naturally ‘happy’ people sometimes in better health?


I remember being introduced to Laughter Yoga (LY) many years ago, and it took until 2020 to be trained and 2023 to become a trainer of it. Back then, I just remember thinking how fabulous it was that we could laugh, exercise, drain lymphatics, and feel better from something that’s so much fun and free and that it was for everyone. A form of exercise that everyone could get involved in, and everyone has experienced at some point in their life. The best laughter is when you just can’t stop and happy tears start rolling down your cheeks. That’s real laughter, and that’s what laughter yoga achieves at times.


It’s a strange thing because I was expecting lots of resistance from the lymphoedema community, with ‘Jane Wigg’ doing something a bit ‘wacky’ and ‘gaga’ and not particularly scientific. However, people get it; they really get it, and they love it!

The good news is, it is scientific, and laughter is for everyone; the better news is that the brain doesn’t know the difference between natural laughter and induced laughter.


How did it start?

Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from Mumbi, India, first pioneered LY. As the founder, just five members turned up at the time, but membership has grown significantly since its origin in 1995. Although maybe not mainstream, the benefits of laughter and laughter yoga are notable.


What is Laughter Yoga?

LY is the use of laughter without the need for humour or feedback. With natural laughter, the ‘titter’ with a friend generally lasts about three to five seconds; however, 10 minutes of laughter is said to induce the same exercise activity at 60 minutes of exercise, such as walking. That has to be a win-win for Laughter Yoga.

LY consists of a series of laughter exercises and breathing techniques, which are completed with a short meditation. Sessions usually last about 45–60 minutes, but benefits are gained after just 5–10 minutes of concurrent laughter.


Laughter Training Academy (LTA), aka Lymphoedema Training Academy!

I’m really pleased that I took the plunge, and I am now a Laughter Yoga leader trainer, accredited through United Mind, meaning I can train you to be a leader too. Laughter Yoga allows for increased socialisation, meaning it fits all disciplines and has no boundaries. Many of us are not ‘just’ MLD therapists but work in a variety of differing specialties, and outside of work, we have a life where we probably socialise in other groups and settings. Being a Laughter Yoga leader means that you can carry out Laughter Yoga classes almost anywhere. Maybe it’s in your workplace (where we understand the benefits for lymphoedema and lipoedema) or maybe it’s at an activity venue or a group you’re involved in. Laughter yoga has found its way into the corporate sector, schools, residential care, and hospices, with great benefits seen.


Laughter has an incredible impact on us. If we induce Laughter, it increases the release of endorphins and those feel-good hormones, making us feel better, allowing us to concord, increasing our resilience, and allowing us to cope better with life.


Laughter and using the abdominal muscles increase our core stability, meaning that our client group may be less inclined to fall, and stretching helps with our muscle groups in many ways. It increases blood circulation and, therefore, improves lymphatic drainage, and by doing so, increases oxygenation to the brain, improving cognitive thoughts and behaviour and reducing brain fog, anxiety, and stress.


After releasing all those endorphins that allow us to feel good, they allow us to get on with the day and overcome obstacles more easily.


What about the yoga part?

Well, the name may be a little deceiving, but ‘Yoga’ gets its routes from the breathing involved, laughter combined with the act of breathing. Deep, hearty laughter uses the diaphragm and other core muscle groups, and some of the keywords used also induce breathing. “Haha, ho ho ho” allows for the upper and lower torsos to be used; try it! Say, loudly, “HAHA” and "HO-HO-HO,” and you will feel it. After every exercise, we breathe, and at the end of the session, we breathe with some relaxation and meditation. Yes, Jane stops for a bit of breathing and meditation sometimes! ... Using the yoga Nidra technique to allow for deep relaxation at the end of every session.


Fun Facts!

There are five main impacts on our lives from consistently practicing Laughter Yoga:

  • Personal life: It impacts our personal lives by lifting our moods due to the release of endorphins, making life just a little easier and more fun.
  • Health: it lowers stress levels and boosts the immune system.
  • Work; by increasing oxygen to the brain, it stimulates, improving focus, energy, and motivation.
  • Social: it connects you to others through groups, maintaining or improving relationships, and forming new ones.
  • Resilience: when we feel better, we are more energised and motivated. Through building our immune system and having more of the good chemicals, it increases our resilience to cope with life’s challenges.


The bottom line is that LY is fun; it’s exercise, and although it may feel a little out of your comfort zone to start with or you may feel it’s a bit mad, it is a great medicinal activity with so many health benefits. Add that to the population that we serve, who we know may not get out as much as they did or feel isolated; they may not have family contacts; they may not laugh with families and friends like they used to. Here, Laughter Yoga provides an opportunity for us to provide all those physical and mental health benefits, including social, and help patients with lymphoedema, lipoedema, and other chronic illnesses.


Why not join us on our two-day training to become a certified Laughter Yoga leader and start a group near you, add it to your therapy options, or provide individual one-to-one sessions? Just imagine having a whole day of laughing… mad I know!!


Contact us for more details. Next course: 2-day training: March 15-16, 2024.


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