The Benefits of Laughter Yoga for People with Parkinson’s Disease
Laughter, says an old saying, is the best medicine. The saying takes on a new meaning for people who practice laughter yoga. It is a form of yoga that is becoming more and more popular. Studies show that the act of laughing can boost mood and overall well-being. This can be especially helpful to people with Parkinson’s disease (PD).1
What is laughter yoga?
Laughter yoga was invented in 1995 by Hindi doctor Madan Katarya. This form of yoga is almost exactly what it sounds like. A typical session includes breathing exercises, stretching, and what is referred to as voluntary laughter. In other words, you make yourself laugh, even if nothing funny is happening.2
The goal is for the forced laughter to turn into the authentic, contagious kind. The laughter and breathing exercises are designed to supply oxygen to the brain. This can make you feel healthier and more energetic.2
What Parkinson’s symptoms can laughter yoga help with?
The most well-known symptoms of PD are the physical ones. This includes tremors, stiffness, and trouble moving or swallowing. However, there are also cognitive symptoms of PD. Depression and anxiety are twice as likely to occur in people with PD. Many people with PD experience sleep disturbances or insomnia as well. Laughter yoga, some studies show, can help improve some of those symptoms.3
Laughter yoga can also lower blood pressure and stress levels. Research done in both India and the United States found that after a session of laughter yoga, peoples’ blood pressure went down by 6 percent. The levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood also dropped by nearly 33 percent.3
How does laughter yoga help with mental symptoms?
There is a great deal of research that shows PD is linked to a dysfunction in the part of the brain that produces the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that impacts many functions in the body, including mood and movement. In people with PD, the nerve cells that usually produce dopamine fail to make enough of the chemical.4
Research has found that laughter has positive effects on the body and mind. Laughter also strengthens the immune system and energy levels. Most notably, studies show that when people laugh – even if they are pretending, as is called for in laughter yoga – it can trigger the body to make more dopamine.3
Can laughter yoga help me sleep?
Laughter can help improve lung function. This can help lead to a better night’s rest. Some of the major sleep disturbances in people with PD are due to breathing problems. Laughing gives the lungs and chest muscles a workout by removing all the air and carbon dioxide inside the chest. This can make room for more oxygen in the lungs and make breathing a little easier.3
Does laughter yoga take the place of other treatments?
If you have PD, you should talk to your doctor before stopping any other therapies or drugs. Also, talk to your doctor about whether laughter yoga is right for you. Laughter yoga has been proven to have benefits in people with PD when used along with other treatments and drugs.1,3
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to PD?