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Yoga is an excellent antidote for stress. But if you’re feeling superstressed, maybe it’s time to supersize your yoga and give laughter yoga a try. After all, laughter is the best medicine, and clinical research has proven that it can reduce stress hormones and boost the immune system.

What Is Laughter Yoga?

When most people think of yoga, they think of moving, stretching, and contorting themselves into pretzel-like positions—but laughter yoga is a different type of yoga that combines laughter and yogic breathing exercises (called pranayama). During laughter yoga, participants engage in “self-triggered” laughter as a body exercise with eye contact and childlike playfulness. The laughter is physical in nature and does not involve comedy or humor. This simulated laughter eventually turns into genuine—and contagious—laughter.

Laughter yoga is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, who launched the first laughter club at a park in 1995. The practice has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon, with more than 8,000 laughter clubs on five continents in about 60 countries.

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Benefits of Laughter Yoga

Laughter yoga may seem silly at first glance, but there is some cold, hard science behind it. Laughter lowers the level of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine in the blood. Furthermore it can help foster a positive, optimistic attitude and counteract feelings of anxiety, depression, and helplessness.

Interestingly, the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter—both provide the same physiological and psychological benefits. So the simulated laughter in laughter yoga provides the same mood boost as the spontaneous eruption of laughter at something funny. What’s more, laughter can tighten the abdominal muscles and provide aerobic benefits. In fact, one minute of intense laughter is as beneficial as 10 minutes on a treadmill.

o, if you’re feeling bogged down by stress, pay a visit to a laughter yoga class and feel your spirits lift.