Laughter Yoga Expert Pranali Dhamankar Introduces You To Its Many Benefits

Pranali Dhamankar, Dubai-based laughter yoga expert and event management entrepreneur, cues Andrea CostaBir into the myriad benefits of laughing one’s way to great health and immense happiness! 

What drew you to the concept of laughter yoga? 

During my teenage years, I  observed elderly individuals laughing heartily in parks, prompting my curiosity about their seemingly spontaneous amusement. Upon inquiry, one of them explained that laughter served as their pastime… Years later, having established my own company specialising in event management for education, corporate, and wellness sectors, a client approached me for a unique event idea. The concept of laughter yoga crossed my mind, and I suggested conducting a session for their attendees. With the laughter yoga session attended by 100 people receiving overwhelming positive feedback, I realised the potential of laughter yoga in enhancing well-being. 

Motivated to delve deeper into its benefits, I did  extensive research and discovered its myriad health advantages. Recognising the value of professional certification, I committed to obtaining leadership credentials in laughter yoga. This decision aimed to equip me with the skills necessary to conduct more sessions effectively across corporate, educational, and wellness settings. Moreover, I aspire to offer the gift of laughter yoga to society, recognising its potential to enrich lives and promote well-being.

Does laughter yoga differ from traditional yoga practices? 

While traditional yoga primarily focuses on physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation to promote physical, mental and spiritual well-being, laughter yoga emphasises laughter as a form of exercise. Traditional yoga focuses on achieving inner peace and harmony through physical and spiritual practices, laughter yoga uses laughter as a tool to promote physical, mental and emotional well-being in a light-hearted and enjoyable manner.

Are there any proven benefits of laughter yoga for physical and mental health? 

Research studies and anecdotal evidence demonstrate the following benefits:

  • Reduces stress by triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. It also decreases the production of stress hormones like cortisol, leading to a sense of relaxation and well-being.
  • Improves your mood as the act of laughing releases neurotransmitters like dopamine, which contribute to feelings of happiness and positivity, pleasure and reward.
  • Regular practice of laughter yoga has been linked to improved immune function. Laughter increases the production of immune cells and antibodies, helping the body to better fight off infections and illnesses.
  • Laughter has natural pain-relieving properties due to its ability to increase blood flow and trigger the release of endorphins. 
  • It benefits heart health by reducing blood pressure, improving circulation, and promoting relaxation. Laughter stimulates the cardiovascular system and increases oxygen intake, leading to better overall cardiovascular function.
  • Since it is typically practiced in a group setting, it fosters social interaction and promotes a sense of belonging and community. 
  • Laughter yoga has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by providing a distraction from negative thoughts and feelings.

Now that you conduct your own laughter yoga sessions for corporates and students in Dubai and elsewhere, what are the techniques you use to induce laughter in participants? 

Some common techniques include:

  • Structured activities specifically designed to stimulate laughter. Examples include ‘Milkshake Laughter’, where participants pretend to shake a giant milkshake and then drink it with exaggerated gulps, or ‘Greeting Laughter’, where participants greet each other with laughter instead of words.
  • Participants engage in role-playing scenarios that are inherently humorous, such as pretending to be animals, celebrities, or fictional characters. This encourages spontaneity and creativity, leading to laughter.
  • They practice laughter meditation, where they close their eyes and focus on the sensation of laughter within their bodies. This technique encourages deep belly laughter and helps release inhibitions.
  • Practitioners make eye contact with each other and engage in laughter, which creates a sense of connection and increases the contagiousness of laughter within the group.

Please share a memorable insight from your work with laughter yoga.

Regardless of age, gender or cultural differences, laughter is a universal language that transcends barriers and brings people closer. It is heartening to see how laughter acts as a powerful tool in building bridges, promoting empathy, and cultivating a sense of belonging within the group. It is a reminder of the inherent human need for joy and connection. 

Please advise us on practicing laughter yoga on our own… 

  • Start with deep belly breathing (pranayama) to relax your body and mind. Deep breathing helps oxygenate your body and prepares you for laughter.
  • Fake it till you make it! Fake laughter often leads to genuine laughter as you continue, so don’t be afraid to initiate laughter even if it feels unnatural initially.
  • Incorporate laughter prompts or cues to stimulate laughter. This could be imagining funny scenarios, using laughter exercises, or simply smiling and laughing at yourself in the mirror.
  • Be playful and imaginative by engaging in role-playing, storytelling, or playful activities to evoke laughter and creativity.
  • Practise regularly as consistency is key. Set aside time for regular laughter yoga practice, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. The more you practise, the easier it will become to laugh naturally.
  • Find laughter partners to amplify the laughter experience. Invite friends, family members, or colleagues to join you in laughter yoga sessions to share the joy and benefits together.
  • Approach laughter yoga with an open mind to let go of inhibitions. Allow yourself to embrace the joy of laughter without the fear of judgment.

Now go ahead, make laughter yoga a part of your daily routine, and enjoy the many physical, mental and emotional benefits it brings… Have fun!!

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