Have you ever laughed so hard ’til you cried, and afterwards felt like that was an amazing 30 second ab workout? Did you feel like you were “Walkin on Sunshine” with a little hop in your step? Like Little Miss Sunshine, in a brighter, better mood? You’ve probably heard that laughing is good for you, but do you know why?
Studies have shown the health benefits of laughter to be far ranging, from relieving pain and stress, to bringing greater happiness and increasing strength of the circulatory system. Let’s take a look at the benefits of laughing your abs off!
- Stress Management: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins.
- Cleansing Sensation: Laughter provides a physical, mental and emotional release.
- Strong Immunity: Laughing your abs off increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells, which means your body is building a stronger defense system against nasty colds.
- Internal Workout: A good, hard laugh session exercises the diaphragm which strengthens your respiratory system. It also raises your pulse rate and blood pressure which stimulates and tones your circulatory system.
- Social Benefits: Laughter connects us with others, just as smiling and kindness does. And most people find that laughter is contagious, so set the tone and start spreading the laughter!
Of course we shouldn’t solely rely on laughter for an ab workout – it’s time for our yoga mats…
Yogis have long understood the importance of strong abs. A solid, supple core is the foundation for many strength and balance poses; and rather than just developing the surface muscles, a.k.a. the six-pack, yoga also penetrates to the underlying muscles to build abs that are both strong and flexible. This allows for fuller exhalations, which increases the quality of our pranayama, our yoga breath and life-force. Among the many benefits, strong abdominal muscles contribute to a healthy digestive system and also help prevent lower back injuries.
Which yoga poses can help you develop rock solid abs? Here are three of my “hurt-so-good” favorites:
- Plank pose (forearm), an all-around body toning pose that develops strength in both upper and lower abdominals. By performing plank from your forearms, you can target your abs more vs. a traditional plank which also activates your shoulder muscles.
- Chaturanga, another all-around body toning pose that not only targets those tris, but like plank, reaches the upper and lower abs. And upward dog feels oh-so-good after holding that tri-plank for a few seconds!
- Boat pose, which trains all four abdominal layers, primarily targeting the lower abs which are often overlooked. Hold boat pose until you shake, smile, then hold it some more.
So laugh your abs off, freely and often. Watch funny movies, hit up a comedy show, laugh off your frustrations, be goofy – and hit your yoga mat for some rock solid core exercises. You’ll feel like you’re walkin on sunshine!
Peace. Love. Namaste.