July 28th, 2008
Ho-Ho! Ha-Ha-Ha! So who wants to join the Laughter Club of Copley? If you haven’t heard of the amazing Laughter Club of India, have a read of this overview (source):
Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the Laughter Club of India, has started a revolution of joy and laughter that is spreading around the world. This Allopathic Physician and ex-registrar at the Jaslok Hospital (Bombay) in Internal Medicine and Cardiology has thousands of people laughing their way to better health, more happiness and deeper friendships. This jovial medicine man from India has developed a new technique of Laughter Therapy based on YOGA called LAUGHTER YOGA. Dr. Kataria explains, “In a nutshell, laughter yoga is a combination of self-induced laughter, yoga exercises, yoga breathing and stretching exercises. With a little bit of playfulness it turns into real laughter. Our body produces a similar response to what we get from spontaneous laughter.”
He said the “idea of a laughter club came to me like a divine light. In 1995, I was writing an article for my health magazine and remembered that ‘Laughter, The Best Medicine,’ from Reader’s Digest had always fascinated me.” During his research for the article, Dr. Kataria discovered a large amount of scientific literature on the benefits of laughter on the human mind and body. “I was very impressed by the American journalist Norman Cousins, whose book Anatomy of an Illness, describes how he laughed his way out of an incurable disease of the spine – Ankylosing Spondylitis. Cousins said, ‘What was significant about the laughter…was not just the fact that it provides internal exercise for a person…a form of jogging for the innards, but that it creates a mood in which the other positive emotions can be put to work, too.'”
So while Dr. Kataria was thinking and pacing the floor of his apartment one morning at 4:30 am, it hit him. “If laughter is so good, why not start a laughter club?” Several hours later he tried out the idea with the regulars at his local park who initially reacted with, “Doc, are you OK?”, “Are you crazy?” He eventually motivated four of them to start laughing in a corner of the park. Others laughed at the concept and ridiculed the idea but were converted when the health benefits were explained. Attendance grew and the rest, as they say, is history. There are now hundreds and hundreds of Laughter Clubs all over the world, including India, USA, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, France, Malaysia and Dubai… and Copley!
So how do we start?
“Start with a large group, the bigger the better because people start to look at each other laughing and it becomes contagious. Each member would raise his hands up towards the sky while laughing which is an easier posture for laughing and makes one feel less inhibited. Each laughing session starts with a deep breathing exercise. Members stretch their hands upwards and take a deep breath, hold it for some time and gradually exhale. This breathing exercise is similar to ‘Pranayam’ in Yoga, which helps in increasing the vital capacity of the lungs and helps in producing laughter. After deep breathing everybody starts chanting Ho-Ho, Ha-Ha-Ha. Slowly increasing the speed of Ho-Ho, Ha-Ha-Ha they suddenly burst into hearty laughter by stretching their hands up and looking at each other’s faces. Each kind of laughter lasts for about 20-30 seconds. This Ho-Ho, Ha-Ha-Ha exercise is akin to a yogic exercise called ‘Kaphalbhati’ where there is a rhythmic movement of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. It helps to facilitate the lungs in order to initiate laughter. When a large number of people gather in a group and chant Ho-Ho, Ha-Ha-Ha, it charges the whole atmosphere with laughter. Since everyone can easily participate in this exercise, each one feels a sense of achievement.”