Laughter Yoga in Medical Settings

Create a cost-effective Laughter Yoga Program with Staff Training to bring the healing power of laughter to your healthcare setting.

Partnering with and training healthcare professionals to integrate the affordable and effective healing powers of laughter yoga into their work with clients and patients is a major goal of my practice. I am a highly-qualifed training specialist with years of experience designing, developing and delivering programs integrated into larger systems.

My professional background includes working with; human resources departments and staff educators, management training specialists,  hospice teams, critical incident stress de-briefing, mental health agencies, dentists, physicians, nurses, psychologists, therapists, social workers, skilled nursing facilities and other RCFEs, Cancer Wellness Centers and hospitals.  I am quite adept at working in healthcare settings and partnering with multi-disciplinary teams in the delivery of creative solutions and quality services in keeping with your mission and within your budget.

Why Laughter Yoga in Healthcare Settings?

  • Healthcare Staff can be trained to become Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders for their own stress-relief as well as  benefiting their colleagues and patients. I offered certified trainings for healthcare  professionals at  UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine for three years where we provided 12 CEUs. I also offered several Laughter Yoga Trainings for small groups and at conferences for the  SEIU Nurses Alliance of California and we provided CEUs.
  • The two-day training is only $295 . We can offer  12 CEs for RNs, M.S.W.s and MFTs if I partner with your training department. Staff will reap the benefits of learning how to use laughter for their own stress-relief as well as learning simple techniques for integrating healthy laughter and breathwork into their patients’ treatment plans.  Healthcare professionals who have trained with me — nurses, physicians, massage therapists, psychologists, yoga teachers —  to become  Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders have integrated laughter into their work at  UCSF, Kaiser Hospitals, San Francisco General,  Stanford University Psychiatric Hospital,  Cancer Wellness Programs, for Pre-Op Programs at  Transfusion Centers and in various other departments in organizations around the country.

You will attend the training  free of charge if you work with me to arrange Laughter Yoga Leader training at your organization. See the Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Training Page.

  • Vicarious Trauma: Laughter Yoga as a Tool for Coping. We in the healing professions working with trauma survivors are at high risk for Vicarious Trauma. VT comes with the territory; no matter how professional, skilled or experienced  we are. Hearing the traumas of  our clients/patients has its impact on us causing compassion fatigue, stress, burnout, intrusive imagery, hyper-vigilance, somatic complaints and even changes in the way we view the world. It is vital to have tools and techniques that are readily available to interupt the cycle of stress we experience everyday.

Please click here to view two  full articles on Vicarious Trauma that are grounded in current research.

Vicarious Trauma: Laughter Yoga as a Fun Tool for Coping” has very well-received by   hundreds of nurses at conferences where I have presented this year.   Nurses enjoy the immediately felt benefits. Breathwork and extended laughter provide a  physical way to release stress with  the added  “happy neuro-chemistry.”

The Reproductive Health Institute Conference, Denver, The Nurses’ Alliance of San Francisco and the SEIU Nurses Alliance, Sacramento are among the professional conferences for nurses to hire me to offer Laughter Yoga Presentations for Vicarious Trauma.

As a trained  Psychotherapist and Critical Incident Stress Debriefer, with a background in working with hospice, elders, community mental health agencies, rape crisis centers, abused women’s shelters and with private clients since 1985,  I know  first-hand the effects of trauma and the need for effective interventions to break the cycle in healthcare workers’  lives.

I love offering Laughter Yoga Presentations for  hard-working nurses!  They understand the body and truly appreciate the immediate benefits of laughter for stress-relief,  emotional well-being and communty connection.  Laughter reduces cortisol  and elicits a cascade of  the feel-good hormones like endorphins and serotonin.   The entire body is oxygenated and many  conference participants reported feeling lighter and more relaxed, yet energized, after practicing  the Laughter Yoga Exercises in community with colleagues.

Trauma can be defined as an exposure to a situation in which a person is confronted with an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to self or others’ physical well-being.”  American Psychiatric Association, 2000. Client traumas frequently include childhood sexual abuse, physical assault, natural disasters, terrorism, domestic violence and work-related violence, so those of us working in healthcare and community mental health settings are exposed to traumatized clients every day.

Vicarius Trauma (VT) goes beyond  burnout or countertransference. It is used to describe clinicians’ reactions to their clients’ trauma and is an explanation of howour response to the secondary trauma of hearing our clients’ stories and treating them affects our worldview and our own sense of self.  VT has been referred to as involving “profound changes in the core aspects of the clinician himself or herself. ” It goes beyond being “burned-out”   by work overload or the general  psychological stress of working with difficult clients.

Connecting with peers is an effective way to process VT. Our families often do not want to hear the stories of our clients that we handle every day. As one nurse at a recent conference said “I don’t want them to experience vicarious trauma too.”  I was touched by how open  nurses have been  in owning so many of the symptoms on this list that follows. We cannot heal what we do not own.

Sharing the effects of VT with colleagues and allowing ten minutes to do so at  every staff meeting is a key intervention for the workplace. So is laughing together to relieve stress and  connect with community!

VT Symptoms include:

  • Disruptions in cognitive schema. Memory and Perception.
  • Changes in our belief systems
  • Shifts in the way we perceive ourselves in the world
  • Hyper-vigilance or being overly cautious with our own families
  • Safety concerns and a fear that there is no safe haven in this life
  • Perfectionism and over-extension at work
  • Intrusive imagery during waking hours
  • Sleep disruption
  • Changes in how much we can trust others
  • Issues around intimacy with those closest to us
  • Interpersonal difficulties with those who live in “fantasy world of safety”.
  • Distancing ourselves from our clients as a coping mechanism
  • Difficulty with quiet, solitude and filling time alone

I urge nurses to reconnect with each other and drop the  “tough nurse act”  of   “going  it alone”  and  just accepting that VT  “comes with the territory of being a nurse.”  Regaining some objectivity and examining our perspectives and how they may have shifted due to our work is also a good awarness exercise.  We cannot address what we deny.

Sometimes being in nature,  and yes,  just getting a good loud  laugh while driving alone in the car can be enough to re-acquaint  us with  the joy deep within us.  Closing our eyes and visualizing our loved ones wrapped in light and sending loving giggles their way is just the break we need from worrying and hyper-vigilance.

A key personal coping mechanism for VT  is connection in ways beyond the scope of work. The literature I read repeatedly referenced “spiritual connection” and “maintaining a balance of work, play and rest” with a  “wellness awareness”  and  making  time to socialize.  Affirming who we are beyond the work we do is key to letting go and allowing our core essence to be replenished.

The  VT research  articles make references to clinicians constantly exposed to VT  ” becoming  rather cynical, withdrawn and emotionally numb with a fractured sense of sense of self, and constant vigilance against the cruelties of life.”  Yikes. We so need to lighten up.

Activities that ” increase personal tolerance levels, including meditation, physical activities, journaling and reconnecting to emotions” all were on the list for coping. I would like to respectfully submit that Yoga and Laughter Yoga be added to that list.

Nurses, I implore you to ease your  burden by re-affirming  confidence in your skills! You are amazing!    We thank you!   Now affirm how fabulous you are with a  juicy, rippling  laugh that will deliver the healing, time-released, happy chemistry you so deserve.  All of  the side-effects of  laughter are the good ones.  So dose yourself accordingly PRN.

To read a very practical article about setting boundaries to maintain your compassion, written by Jen Matthews, Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and Co-Creator of the CD “The Life of Your Life” please click here

Other Benefits of Laughter in Healthcare Settings:

  • Laughter is perfect for Patients and Clients who need exercise but are unable to get out of bed or must remain seated. Laughter Yoga offers a multitude of powerful benefits without the need for mobility, which is ideal for patients and clients who are limited in their ability to exercise. I have been teaching Laughter Yoga for people who do it seated in chairs and wheelchairs for several years now. It can also be adapted for individual  clients in bed and for clients in rehab. View the video of me teaching Laughter Yoga to the Arm Chair and Wheel Chair on my Marketplace Page.
  • Laughter Yoga is ideal for creating community connection for those at risk with social isolation. I teach Laughter Yoga for groups of elders in retirement communities, in assisted living communities and for dementia care communities too, where residents suffer with social isolation. The participants do not need to know one another to gather in a circle and laugh together. It is easy to follow and there are no jokes to understand. The focus on play with lots of eye contact is very powerful. Even my Happy Hour Laughter Yoga group of highly-functioning workers who come to the class for stress-relief report that “it is very healing to be in a group of smiling, happy people on a Friday night, after a stressful week in the workplace!” People in treatment for cancer and recovering from the treatment often suffer from social isolation as their energy for social activities dwindles along with resources to “get out and about.” Laughter Yoga is an accepting social activity that does not require those affected by cancer or other recent bouts with health challenges, to be “their old selves” for friends and family members. All of the above benefits also apply to people in recovery from alcohol, substance abuse and emotional eating disorders.
  • Laughter Yoga alleviates stress. More than 80% of all doctors’ visits and medications prescribed today are for stress-related illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic, typical stress symptoms include a a negative state of mind with a cynical, sarcastic and critical outlook; lack of motivation; irritability and lack of patience; lack of energy; lack of satisfaction with life and achievement;disillusionment; the of facing insurmountable barriers; lack of productivity and efficeincy; self-medication using food, alcohol or drugs to feel better, or not to feel; changes in sleep and appetite habits; headaches, neck and lower back pain and most painfully, the loss of the ability to experience joy. Laughter Yoga radically reduces the effects of stress and so much more.

When we practice extended laughter exercises, we get all of these benefits:

  • Blood, brain & all organs are oxygenated.
  • Boosted endorphin level reduce aches and pains.
  • Time-released serotonin
  • Anxiety & depression reduced by the boost of endorphins.
  • Heart rate is doubled with one minute of mirthful laughter.
  • Extended laughter reduces the anger response
  • Blood pressure and pulse rate drop.
  • Boosts immune system.
  • Circulation improves.
  • Reduces respiratory infections.
  • Immune, digestive, sexual & cardiac systems are stimulated.
  • Cortisol and stress reduced.
  • Relaxes and strengthens muscles.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the cleansing of the lymph system.
  • Laughing together provides healthy community/social connection.
  • Laughter Yoga can be adapted to working with individuals

Laughter is The Best Medicine. Here are a few of the people who have provided evidence of Laughter’s Benefits:

1862: Dr. Guillaume, a French doctor mapped facial muscles. When we smile there is heightened activity in the left anterior region of the brain’s cortex.

1960’s: Dr. William Fry, Stanford, proved that one minute of mirthful laughter can double the heart rate for as much as three to five minutes and is a great cardio workout.

1970’s: Dr. Patch Adams, M.D. demonstrated that increased laughter enabled children to heal faster from surgeries at the Gesundheit Institute.

1979: Norman Cousins, wrote Anatomy of an Illness, documenting the power of laughter to enable him to get a few hours of sleep and pain relief when all else failed.

1995: Dr. Madan Kataria, M.D., researches the benefits of laughter and creates Laughter Yoga Clubs International , starting with only five people in a Mumbai Park.

2007: Dr. Richard Miller at the University of Maryland showed the benefits of laughter for cardiac health.

1989 – 2008: Dr. Lee Berk, PhD, and his research team of psycho-neuro-immunology at Loma Linda Unvierstiy Medical Center conducted a one year study and showed that those who were in the laughter group had a 20% less recurrent heart attack rate, compared to the 50% in the non-laughter group. Also proved that endorphin release decresed respiratory infections.

Medical Research of the benefits of laughter are happening all over the world. In August, 2009, the entire issue of Ode, The Magazine for Intelligent Optimists, was devoted its to laughter. Research in Norway shows that rats laugh but it is ultrasonic and we cannot here them. They have tickle skin and the most preferred rats for breeding are the ones who laugh the most! For more research on the benefits of Laughter Yoga visit

Dr. Andrew Weil Highly Recommends Laughter Yoga

I first learned of Laughter Yoga from Dr. Andrew Weil. I attended a workshop with him years ago and he mentioned how laughter is beneficial to our health, especially as we age. He talked about Laughter Yoga being created by a physician in India and I was intrigued. Laughter and Yoga! Two of my favorite things! The rest of that story can be found throughout this website. But on with the topic at hand — Dr Kataria has met with Dr Weil on his visits to the United States and reports that Dr. Weil is planning to do research on Laughter Yoga methods. Here is a recent statement from an interview with Dr.Weil about Laughter Yoga.

drweil“We’ve all heard laughter is the best medicine, I think that may literally be true. I’m not talking about chuckling, I’m talking about real laughter when it becomes almost involuntary. Laugh until you cry, and your muscles hurt and you fall down. There’s a really dramatic change in physiology and neurochemistry, and there’s now a very interesting formal system of inducing laughter that came out of India – it’s called Laughter Yoga. It is the invention of an Indian physician, Dr. Madan Kataria, who has started laughter yoga clubs around the world.

The method is interesting – groups of people meet on a regular basis. They begin by doing some physical exercises to warm up and then some breathing exercises and then they start laughing. They don’t use humor to do this, they simulate laughter and after a while in a group this becomes real laughter and it goes on for several minutes and at the end people are refreshed. This appears to lower stress dramatically, to deal with anxiety, to really improve a whole variety of physical symptoms.”

– Dr. Andrew Weil

About Dr Weil

Andrew Thomas Weil (b.1942) is an American author and physician, best known for establishing and popularizing the field of integrative medicine. Weil is the author of several best-selling books and runs a website and monthly newsletter, where he answers questions relating to health. He is the founder and Program Director of the Program in Integrative Medicine (PIM) at University of Arizona. Weil started PIM in 1994 and has become one of the leading proponents of integrative medicine in the world.

Dr. Weil appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1997 and 2005. Time Magazine also named him one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997 and one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005. He received the John P. McGovern Award in Behavioral Sciences from Smithsonian Associates in 2005. Please click at the following link


A reason to laugh!  featured on the front page of Kaiser Permanente’s May 2010 Newsletter

You know how it feels when you laugh so hard you cry? Whatever tension you had seems to wash away. And medical science is catching on to what we’ve been feeling.

  • A March 2005 study by Michael Miller, MD, at the University of Maryland showed that in healthy people, laughter did as much good for their arteries as aerobic activity.
  • A 2007 study in the International Journal of Obesity suggests that genuine laughter can increase calories burned by 10 percent to 20 percent, which may help with weight management. This may even help lower blood glucose in people who have diabetes.
  • April 2009 studies by Lee Berk, DrPH, and Stanley Tan, MD, at Loma Linda University showed that laughter reduced stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine. It also increased protective hormones like beta endorphins and human growth hormone.

What’s your prescription for laughter? A Marx Brothers movie? Calvin and Hobbes comics or maybe karaoke? Whatever you choose, make time for fun activities.

Comment: Carmela suggests practicing Laughter Yoga so you extend your laughter for more than a few chuckles to really get the benefits.