What is Laughter Yoga?
The brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, a Physician from Mumbai, India, launched the first Laughter Club at a Park on March 13, 1995, with merely a handful of persons. Today, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 6000 Social Laughter Clubs in about 60 countries.
Laughter Yoga combines Unconditional Laughter with Yogic Breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can Laugh for No Reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.
This innovative concept has a worldwide following, and has been featured by many popular publications like TIME Magazine, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Daily Telegraph (UK) among others. Laughter Clubs have appeared on popular Television: Oprah Winfrey Show, BBC, CNN, ZDF (Germany) NHK (Japan), ABC News (USA) and others around the world. Many film features on Laughter Yoga and Laughter Clubs have been produced in different languages of the world. The media has been highly influential in the growth of Laughter Yoga globally.
Laughter Clubs Free for All
Laughter Yoga Clubs are Social Clubs, free for all. There is no membership fee, no forms to fill, and no fuss. These Clubs are run by volunteers trained as Laughter Yoga Teachers and Laughter Yoga Leaders. Laughter Clubs are non-political, non-religious and non-profit, and run directly by Laughter Clubs International in India, and Laughter Yoga International in the rest of the world.
Mission – World Peace
The goal of Laughter Yoga is to bring good health, joy and world peace through Laughter. Laughter is universal with no language and cultural barriers. Laughter Yoga Clubs are fast growing into a worldwide community of like-minded people who believe in unconditional Love, Laughter and Fellowship. Every first Sunday of May is celebrated as World Laughter Day. In the year 2000, nearly 10,000 people laughed together in Copenhagen, Denmark to set a Guinness Book Record.
Life Changing Experience
Throughout India, thousands of Laughter Yoga Clubs meet every morning in public parks. Most Laughter Club members proudly report that they have not missed a day in five years or more. They say it makes them happy, healthy and energized – effecting a transformation in their lives. The Laughter Yoga session each day, results in positive energy that makes it easy to cope with stress of daily life and saves them from depression. In fact, the impact of laughter is so profound that many practitioners claim they no longer need anti-depressants. The sustained positive emotions keep them coming back for more. Participants of Laughter Yoga report significant general health improvements. Many have felt a reduction in the frequency of respiratory infections like common cold and flu, and some others reported overcoming depression, relief/cure from chronic medical problems. With people’s committed participation, Laughter Yoga has helped many people become healthier.
Clinical research on Laughter Yoga methods, conducted at the University of Graz in Austria; Bangalore, India; and in the United States has proved that Laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood. It fosters a positive and hopeful attitude. It is less likely for a person to succumb to stress and feelings of depression and helplessness, if one is able to laugh away the troubles.
Laughter Yoga in Schools
In India, Laughter Yoga has been introduced in many schools of Surat, Baroda and Bangalore. The school schedule includes ten minutes of Laughter in the Morning Assembly, followed by five minutes of Laughter Session in the classrooms both at the beginning and at the end of the day. This routine has shown that the mood and atmosphere gets energized. Teachers and students are happier together, with a more positive outlook, and improves communication, discipline and attendance. Academic results have also shown improvement. Outside India, Ithaca College, New York and in Minnesota in the United States are fast becoming popular with the college students.
Laughter Yoga and Business World
Scientific research reveals that Laughter can help resolve many major issues at the workplace, yet, till now there has been no reliable and effective system to deliver laughter. Humor was the only tool available, but it is not reliable and seldom leads to continuous hearty laughter. Laughter Yoga is a breakthrough laughter delivery system that can enable a person to laugh continuously for 15 to 20 minutes with short breaks of Yogic Breathing. Many Laughter Yoga professionals have presented sessions to the business community, with positive results. The concept is gaining popularity in companies and corporations in India, Denmark, US and many other countries. It is a powerful force for improving staff performance at the workplace. This was recently confirmed by studies in India and the USA, that showed a substantial stress reduction and enhanced productivity by the staff after just three weeks of Laughter Sessions.
Seniors and Laughter Yoga
Laughter Yoga is being practiced by Seniors in many aged care facilities in Canada, USA, Israel and Europe. There is a distinct rise in life expectancy with improvement in health care, and advancement in medical technology. In fact, ten years from now the number of older people would have almost doubled. Faced with age and age-related troubles, Seniors find their physical and mental faculties on the decline. Since the cognitive abilities in seniors are compromised due to senile dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, they find it difficult to comprehend humor. Therefore, Laughter Yoga is the ideal form of exercise routine that can help them to get complete health benefits of Laughter.
Laughter Yoga and Cancer Patients
A significant number of Laughter Club members around the world suffer some kind of cancer, and laughter has brought a new hope in their lives. Many have reported that regular Laughter Sessions have benefited them tremendously. Cancer is the next biggest killer after Depression and Heart problems. Scientific research has proved that laughter has a profound impact on the immune system that influences the course of survival of cancer patients. Laughter Yoga has been effectively implemented in many Cancer Hospitals, helping the patients and their caregivers, cope with pain and trauma. Swedish Cancer Hospital in Chicago, USA, conducts Laughter Yoga regularly during the chemotherapy sessions.
Laughter Yoga in Prisons
Laughter Yoga is being practiced in several prisons in India, Europe and USA. British actor John Cleese visited Mumbai Prison in the year 2001 during the making of a documentary for BBC, on Human Expressions. He found that laughter had a profound impact on the prisoners, and the atmosphere in general lightened. With the rise in crime all over the world, the prisons are overburdened with prisoners, harboring negative emotions and thoughts. Laughter Yoga is a great method of dissipating negative feelings of anger and frustration. Many prisoners in India have found Laughter Yoga an effective tool to release their negative emotions. There have been positive changes in prisoner attitude, better prisoner-staff relations and reduced violence.
Laughter Yoga with Physically and Mentally Challenged
Laughter Yoga has made a major difference in the lives of many people with physical and mental disabilities in India, Canada, USA and Portugal. In fact, in Bangalore, India, the introduction of Laughter Yoga for the mentally and the physically challenged children has revealed a marked improvement in their motor and expressive skills besides control of hyperactiveness. Many such people who come to these sessions in wheel chairs have shown tremendous improvement in their physical condition and mental health. Laughter Yoga has also been introduced in many schools for the Blind, and among the deaf and mute children, to help them cope with their disabilities and generate a more positive attitude, that will help them to enhance their wellbeing.
For more information, please visit the official website of Dr. Kataria at www.laughteryoga.org