As I was growing up, my dad was an avid runner – 5K’s, 10K’s, marathons, ultramarathons – you name the distance, he ran it, and he ran it well. The running group that he was a part of was a group of gentlemen that LOVED a good prank. They were always pranking one another for a good laugh – don’t worry, it was all in good fun, and they were always up for a good prank, even if they were on the receiving end.
There was one prank that sticks out in my mind that my dad told me about, in which my dad and his buddies told one runner in their group, let’s call him George, that they had come upon a new method of warming up for a race that involved rolling up into a tight ball on the ground, and chanting Ho Ho Ho repeatedly, getting louder and louder until basically doing it at the top of his lungs, at which point, he was to spread his body out and continue to chant Ho Ho Ho loudly for all to hear. My dad and his buddies just thought it would be comical to see if George actually did it, as it was quite attention-grabbing and would make George quite the spectacle.
At the next race they were all at, to the rest of the group’s delight, George did this warm up, as they all suppressed their giggles until he was done. Once they couldn’t hold in their laughter any longer, George realized it was a prank and got up laughing along with them while shrugging his shoulders at the people staring at him oddly from all the noise and flailing around he had just put forth.
They all lined up at the starting line, and after the race, George had beaten them all. In fact, he ran the best race of his running career, and he felt great afterwards. After the race, with a smile on his face, pride in his eyes, and celebration in his heart, he told my dad that he actually never felt more relaxed in a race, and that he felt stronger than ever while out there running the course.
It turns out that George’s stellar performance out on the road was not a fluke. Rather, with all the HO HO HO’s and different breathing methods that were involved with this warm up, my dad and this group of runners unknowingly bestowed a small bit of the magical gifts and benefits of laughter yoga onto George through this made up, albeit effective, warm-up method.
There are a number of ways that laughter yoga can aide in athletic performance. While most of them come from the increased lung capacity and strengthening of the lungs that laughter yoga can provide, there are also many other benefits that athletes can experience from laughter yoga. Some of these are as follows:
- As just mentioned, laughter yoga increases lung capacity, which is the maximum amount of air the lungs can hold after one inhales as deeply as they can. It also aids in improving vital capacity (maximum amount of air exhaled after a deep inhale), tidal volume (the amount of air taken in and out when breathing), and ventilation rate (the number of times one inhales or exhales in 60 seconds, or a minute). Basically, laughter yoga is an amazing tool for fortifying the lungs and their ability to take in as much oxygen as they possibly can. In turn, this oxygen gets delivered to the muscles and other parts of the body, and in athletics, more oxygen means better performance, quicker recovery, and more ease of accomplishing one’s physical goals.
- Speaking of oxygen uptake. Laughter yoga gently increases both heart rate and breathing rate. In turn, this increases the amount of oxygen dispersed throughout the body and the blood circulation throughout the body. If you’ve ever attended an athletic event, regardless of the sport, you will often see athletes doing some sort of warm-up exercise before the start of the game/event/race. This is to get the heart, lungs, and muscles warmed up and the blood and oxygen flowing more readily throughout the body in preparation for the arduous main event soon to follow. As demonstrated with George’s warm up before his race, incorporating aspects of laughter yoga into a warm up are extremely beneficial in facilitating these processes.
- Another happy side effect of laughter yoga is that it can help to calm one’s nerves before an athletic event. It is well known that athletes are often plagued with performance anxiety as well as other emotional stresses when getting ready to compete. Laughter yoga is an excellent tool for reducing anxiety, stress, and tension in general in that it encourages the release of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins throughout the body, and helps to lower stress hormones, such as cortisol. All of these feel-good chemicals and hormones support a calm and relaxed state in both the mind and body. Hence, by laughing before a competition, athletes can lower stress hormones and increase a calm sensation within them helping them to feel more relaxed. In turn, they can perform with more ease, focus, and confidence.
- It is no secret that when we are enjoying ourselves and having fun while doing something, we do it better. Laughter yoga increases joy and the ability to enjoy all that life has to offer. In the case of athletics, laughter yoga can help athletes to truly tap into the joy within them and then express that joy out on the court, field, track, or the like, leading to stronger performances and results.
- Lastly, as demonstrated with George’s experience, laughter yoga can help one not to take themselves too seriously and to put things into perspective. This can not only help to reduce stress before an athletic event, but it can also make the event itself more enjoyable for an athlete. Laughter yoga is an excellent trainer and guide for each one of us that allows us to really realize what is important in life, what isn’t, and how to accept ourselves and our accomplishments and/or failures with grace and humility.
Did you know that the pose that athletes often take on after winning a race or a competition (both arms and hands in the air in a V formation, head back, and roaring with pride and celebration), is actually the signature laughter yoga pose. Coincidence? I think not!
Side note: George, my dad, and the rest of the running group actually ended up using their made-up warm-up technique that started out as a joke at future races, and all found benefits from it in their running and relaxation throughout the race and in their recovery afterwards. Hence, let’s add ‘aiding in athletic performance’ to the ever-growing list of benefits that laughter yoga can provide!
Athlete or not, I can say with total confidence that there is an aspect of laughter yoga that could benefit you! Give it a try and see the various healing and transformative properties it holds. Follow along with my blog and videos to learn more and to experience all of the benefits of laughter yoga for yourself! If you’re looking for a more “live” experience, contact me about Zoom sessions! Sending love and laughter to all of you!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a medical professional. The information presented on this site is for educational purposes only. One should always consult with their doctor or medical professional before taking on any sort of new exercise program.