You watch them laugh, and you cannot help but do it, too. There is something fantastic about the chemistry of laughter: it lifts you up, inside and out. This is what the latest yoga trend taps on, and in the Middle East, it is helping Syrian refugees release stress and overcome trauma.
“Laughter is the best medicine,” says Liliane Akiki, Lebanese physiotherapy consultant and instructor who pioneered Laughter Yoga in Lebanon and extended the practice to Syrian youngsters in Bar Elias camp, in the Bekaa valley. According to humanitarian organisations working in Lebanon, thousands of Syrian children are in need of psychological support. “Laughing gives positive energy and makes the person be positive in dealing with himself, and accept all the problems or face the ones that he can’t ignore,” Akiki says.
World renown ‘giggling guru’ Madan Kataria explains that the benefits of laughing go beyond physical well-being. “Laughing increases the production of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones. It lowers hypertension. It increases oxygen intake and, as such, is a fantastic aerobic exercise,” he tells Middle East Health. “It is also a strong stimulant of the immune system,” he adds. Akiki holds sessions with teenage refugees who “are coming from disasters, are homeless, and find the experience amazing” to overcome emotional trauma.