Besides being The Attitude Doc, the “Shrink” who calls herself a “Stretch” is also a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher. She studied with Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga, in 2007.
In 1989 as part of her dissertation, entitled “Laughter, Enthusiasm and Joy As Healing Modalities,” she interviewed Norman Cousins, author of the classic Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins described how the Marx Brothers helped his recovery from a painful illness that was never satisfactorily diagnosed. Their movies gave him hours of pain-free sleep, and he eventually recovered. In 1970, he was well ahead of his time because today approximately 20 percent of National Cancer Institute designated treatment centers in the U.S. offer laughter or humor therapy — not because it will cure cancer, but because it helps patients cope.
Laughter is a playful, social, contagious thing, with benefits powerful to the body, mind and soul. I believe it was Alan Alda who said,
“When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other”
Besides being a powerful cardio workout, laughter has the power to change your mood within minutes by releasing certain chemicals from your brain called endorphins. Ten minutes of hearty laughter is equal to 30 minutes on the rowing machine, increasing blood circulation and relaxing the muscles. Laughter is also a powerful antidote for depression, reducing blood pressure as well as reducing stress in the workplace. It’s an extremely powerful tool to connect people easily and effortlessly. A more positive mental attitude is a result of laughter, making it easier to deal with negative emotions that surface as a result of others comments, difficult people and life. Holistically one becomes a healthier, happier person better equipped to work with life in a manner that brings more inner peace and pure joy.
Science tells us that the brain needs 25% more oxygen than other body organs for optimal functioning. When we laugh we bring more oxygen to the body. Interesting that when we cry, we do the same thing.
“If you increase your humor quotient, it will change your life,”
says Steven Sultanoff, professor of psychology in the Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and an authority on the therapeutic uses of humor.
“Laughter is a physical response to humor,” says Sultanoff. “Muscles contract, blood flow increases, breathing rate speeds up and circulation increases.”
The strongest evidence for the health benefits of laughter comes from psychiatric research. Evidence has been accumulating for years that people who suffer with chronic anxiety, anger and depression have multiple physiological problems. Anger and depression have been linked to heart disease, while gastrointestinal troubles are said to result from uncontrolled anxiety. The American Heart Association (AHA) warns people who have had heart attacks that depression can slow their recovery and increase their risk of future cardiac calamities. The AHA also urges its cardiologist members to get psychiatric help for heart attack patients who show signs of depression. What does this have to do with laughter?
“We know that in the human condition, you cannot experience emotional distress and emotional uplift at the same time,” Sultanoff says. “When you’re experiencing mirth, you are not experiencing depression, anxiety or anger.”
Could laughter kill cancer cells, too? Mary Payne Bennett, director of the Western Kentucky University School of Nursing, has evidence that it does, at least in the test tube. She and her colleagues conducted experiments to assess the activity of natural killer cells before and after volunteers watched a so-called “humor stimulus” (in lay terms: something funny). It’s the business of natural killer, or NK, cells to kill cancer cells, among other chores. The strength of this anti-cancer response can be assessed by placing NK cells in a container with cancer cells and measuring cancer cell death after four hours.
In Bennett’s study, blood was drawn from the volunteers before they watched a funny video and again afterward. Bennett found some of her volunteers laughed out loud, while others simply looked amused during the video. Both sets of NK cells were tested against the cancer cells. Although both groups reported decreases in psychological stress, NK cells from the laugh’ers were more active against the cancer cells after the funny video.
“We can say for sure that mirthful laughter causes reductions in self-reported psychological stress, and it is also associated with decreases in the stress hormone cortisol, which is evidence of a reduction in physiological stress,” Bennett says. “Laughter is a good thing, with no major harmful side effects. This is a longstanding component of major belief systems around the world, but now we’re documenting it.”
Dr. Alexandra recommends Laughing Laura’s line of Laughter Yoga products to help you cultivate a positive state of mind and improve your life!
Laugh Your Way There
Say goodbye to stress on the road with this hilarious CD. Laughing Laura and the Fabulous Laughers keep the laughter rolling for commuters. This professionally recorded, 23-minute workout features unique laughter exercises, yoga breathing, gibberish talking, happy chants, positive affirmations and more. No wonder it’s her most popular CD. Laugh Your Way There—the only product of its kind—will jump start your laughter engine no matter where you are!
Today is a Laughing Day
Happy, playful, interactive songs abound on Laughing Laura’s debut album. This upbeat collection of 15 original songs and cheers is the first ever laughter-themed children’s album. Laughing Laura and the Gigglers are accompanied by a swingin’ jazz trio. Today is a Laughing Day delivers big, happy fun to inspire laughing, singing, and dancing for the whole family.
Doing deep yoga breathing and laughing alone can boost your health and happiness. We lead busy lives, though, so it’s difficult to take the time for this practice. That’s why Laughing Laura’s created this do-it-yourself laughter makeover to help you. On this 75 minute recording, she’ll guide you through:
Morning – 5 yogic breathing exercises followed by 15 minutes of laughter, which you can do regardless of your mood. This will kick off your day by connecting you to your own inner peace and joy.
Noon – A laughter dance party to get you moving, breathing, laughing and dancing. It will revitalize you for whatever lies ahead.
Night – Unwind at bedtime with yoga nidra, a unique form of meditation done while lying down. It induces complete relaxation of the body, mind and emotions. At the end, the music will lull you into sleep, enabling you to rest in a blissful state.
Laughter Friends DVD
Join Laughing Laura and her Laughter Friends in this fun, easy-to-follow laughter yoga workout on DVD! This program contains a high-impact laughter yoga workout designed specifically for children, complete with a warm up, deep breathing, original songs, guided relaxation and 27 laughter exercises. The whole family can join in the laughter fun and cultivate a more positive outlook on life. This film was chosen to be part of Operation Military Kid and sent to children whose parents have been deployed around the world. Now in it’s third edition and packaged in a cool DVD digipak.