Laughter Yoga in Aged Care

Laughter yoga is a unique exercise routine that combines simulated laughter exercises with yogic breathing (pranayama), and clapping. It is an ideal activity to conduct with older people with its many associated physical, emotional and social health benefits. It is a great way to enhance oxygen levels in the body, which helps energize the body, and, with the release of endorphins, helps elevate mood and fight depression. Even though the laughter initially begins as a simulated exercise, as long as people choose to laugh with the right intention, the body cannot differentiate between real and fake laughter.

Laughter Yoga provides a gentle mind and body workout. The benefit with older people is that laughter yoga can be conducted anywhere, even in the comfort of their bedroom and does not require a lot of physical energy, whilst still providing a gentle mind and body workout.

Laughter yoga sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques, which include stretching, chanting ho, ho, ha, ha, ha, clapping and body movement. In people with limited movement or functioning, laughter yoga and warm-up exercises can easily be modified. In an older audience laughter sessions are generally conducted whilst seated. Chairs are configured so residents can have some form of eye contact with one another. From here the active laughter session begins with a series of different laughs to promote fine and gross motor skills, playfulness, vocal sounds and decrease stress. Different laughter exercises include the greeting laugh, tapping the body awake laugh, triathlon laugh, catching a ‘laughter’ ball, mobile phone laugh and singing laugh. Sessions end with a smiling and laughter mindfulness practice.

Breathing is a very important aspect of laughter yoga. In laughter yoga, the aim is to slow down and deepen breathing. This helps eliminate residual air in the lungs and stimulates the parasympathetic system, which is the calming branch of the autonomic system.

Laughter is a very social function, and as a result is a very effective way of connecting people, no matter the age. Even in people with dementia, I have found people often respond with a smile and are more engaged during and after a session. In many respects laughter between people causes a family-like bond, helping people to relax and feel joyful.

  • Summary of the health benefits of laughter:
    Boosts the immune system
    Increases endorphins
    Increases oxygenation and metabolism
    Lowers blood pressure
    Stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system
    Relieves stress, muscle tension and controls pain
    Stimulates both sides of the brain- just like meditation
    Socially connects people
    Cardiovascular – Stimulates heart rate and blood pressure followed by a relaxation phase.

In partnership with La Trobe University, Ros conducted the “Laugh out Loud” (LOL) laughter yoga program for residents and staff in over 35 residential aged care facilities across Victoria. 

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