For exclusive access to all our stories, including sequences, teacher tips, video classes, and more, join Outside+ today.
There’s a reason why people claim that the key to life is laughter; You can feel all of your stressors and muscle tightness melt away while giggling uncontrollably. Laughter Yoga, a practice dedicated to invoking spontaneous laughter through breathing techniques, mantra meditations, and asana, can have profound impacts on your mental and physical health. Here, author Madan Kataria, M.D. shares advice on how to enjoy Laughter Yoga in your lonesome by way of an excerpt from his new book, Laughter Yoga: Daily Practices for Health and Happiness.
Steps to Laughing Alone Exercises
- Warm-up Exercise (Ho Ho, Ha Ha)
Before starting with laughing alone exercises, ensure that you warm up. Exercises like chanting “ho ho” and “ha ha ha” and “very good, very good, yay” are some expressions that you can use. These exercises will be even more fun if you do them alone in front of a mirror. Do them gently in the beginning and gradually increase the intensity until you are comfortable.
Ideally, this warm-up exercise should be done in a standing position. Say “ho ho” twice as you push your hands away from your chest and say “ha ha” as you push your hands toward the ground. Slowly sway your body from left to right and bend your knees slightly as you say “ho ho” and “ha ha ha” faster. After doing this a couple of times, do some deep-breathing exercises. Raise your arms above your head, inhale and hold your breath for three to five seconds. Then slowly bend at the waist, let your arms dangle and exhale saying “haaaaaaaaa.” Continue to laugh after this.
See also 13 Major Yoga Mantras to Memorize
Try Different Laughter Sounds
- You can do these while sitting or standing.
1. “Ho Ho” Sounds from the Belly: Put your hand on your belly button. With your mouth open, say “ho ho ho.” Feel the movement of your abdominal muscles and let the laughter sounds from your belly stimulate the diaphragm. After a while, increase the speed and burst into laughter while saying “ho ho ho.”
2. “Ha Ha” Sounds from the Chest: Place your hand on your heart and say “ha ha ha.” Feel the vibrations in your chest. After a while, increase the speed and burst into laughter while saying “ha ha ha.”
3. “He He” Sounds from Your Throat: Place your hands on your neck, where your larynx is, and say “he he he.” Feel the sound in your throat. Next, burst out laughing and feel the vibrations.
4. Humming into Your Ears: Place both your hands on your ears, close your eyes and mouth and hum. Slowly convert this sound into humming laughter and feel it in your head and deep inside your brain.
- Breathe, Hold, Laugh
This is a very powerful breath-holding technique. Straighten your arms before your chest with the palms facing upward. Inhale through the nose and bring your fists closer to your chest. Hold your breath for three to four seconds and then burst out laughing while exhaling. Repeat thrice.
- Breathe into the Lungs
- Breathing into the Upper Lobe: The lungs have three lobes. This exercise will bring more air to the upper lobe. Place your hands between your shoulder blades with the palms facing outward (refer to the pictures below). Take a deep breath, hold for three to four seconds and laugh. Repeat thrice.
- Breathing into the Middle Lobe: Join both your palms and stretch them above your head until your arms are straight. This is called the mountain posture in yoga. Take a deep breath, hold it for three to four seconds and laugh. This will oxygenate your middle lobes. Repeat thrice.
- Breathing into the Lower Lobe: Hold your hands out like a lion’s paws. Take a deep breath, hold it for three to four seconds and then stick your tongue out and laugh from your belly. This will help bring more air into the lower lobe. Repeat thrice.
- Fake It Until You Make It
Try to fake laughter by saying “ha ha ha,” “he he he” and “ho ho ho.” Keep doing this till you can laugh genuinely at the sound of your own laughter. Try different ways to fake laughter sounds until you find those that amuse you. Stick to them and practice them often. Initially, simulated laughter may seem awkward, but with repeated practice your body will become conditioned and allow real laughter to follow the moment you start faking it.
- Gentle Laughter
This is one of my favorite laughing alone exercises. Laughing out loud on purpose is difficult to sustain for many people. But if you laugh softly and keep giggling, you can continue to laugh for as long as you want and let it sound natural.
- Silent Laughter
This is the most useful exercise that anyone can do without disturbing other people. When you know that you have to laugh without making a sound, you end up laughing even more. I use this technique frequently when I travel with Madhuri as she does not like to be disturbed.
Sit quietly in a corner and try to laugh without making a sound, but keep your mouth wide open. Though it will be pretense initially, it will soon turn into real laughter. In fact, there are times when I cannot keep quiet. To avoid this, I found another way. I go to the bathroom, look at myself in the mirror and start laughing silently.
- Voice Reinforcement Technique
Have you ever noticed that when you are not in a good mood, you sound low? In contrast, when you are happy and confident, you sound cheerful. Laughter exercises open up your voice, which resets your emotional state through a process called biofeedback. The freedom and expression of one’s voice affects the flow of emotions in the mind. Thus, the pitch and tone of your laughter can change your state of mind, even if it is practiced as an exercise. As there is a two-way link between the body and mind, freeing your voice with the sound of laughter can bring about a change in your emotional state.
See also Empower Your Voice
- Holding Your Knees Laughter
This exercise facilitates the upward movement of the diaphragm by pressing the abdominal muscles. It also helps to increase blood flow to the brain thus improving circulation. It involves pulling the knees toward your chest and releasing them as you exhale and inhale. Lie down on your back, hold your knees together with both your hands and bring them closer to your chest.
While doing this, push your chin upward and keep your mouth a little open to exhale. This helps to straighten the respiratory tract and allows air to flow freely through it. In the next step, release your knees and take deep breaths.
From Laughter Yoga by Madan Kataria, M.D., published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2018 by Dr. Madan Kataria.