Art of Living

 

 

Laugh Your Way To Good Health

hile walking along the Land's End promenade, I came across a group of people laughing loudly and heartily. For a moment I wondered whether the joke was on me! Luckily, it wasn't. On enquiring, I realised that they were deriving the benefits of laughter therapy. Seeing them laugh, I felt like laughing too, but controlled myself.

In life's daily wear and tear, we have almost forgotten to laugh. How freely we laughed when we were children! Our childhood laughter was spontaneous because we had very few inhibitions. As we grow older, we are flooded with information, we become more serious, even insecure to a certain extent. Most of us stop to think before we smile and laugh in public! Our happiness and laughter have become dependent on material success and personal achievements. As a result, we have lost our sense of humour. According to a study by Dr. Michael Titze, a German psychologist: "In the 1950s people used to laugh 18 minutes a day, but today we laugh not more than six minutes per day, despite the huge rises in the standard of living."

Humour is considered a mental and intelligent phenomenon. So,  

should we start cracking jokes? But not everybody can tell jokes or understand them fully. Besides, how can we laugh without a reason? We are not crazy! The answer lies in either joining or starting your own Laughter Club because they are the ideal platforms to laugh your way to silliness, without fear of ridicule. Gather a group (the larger the better), find a place to assemble in your locality and get your club registered at the Laughter Club International Headquarters. The Laughter Club International (LCI) will arrange for a team of experts to visit your area for a lecture and demonstration of various techniques of yogic laughter.

Health Benefits
Surprisingly, the headquarters of LCI is right here in Mumbai at the Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri. According to its Founder-President, Dr. Madan Kataria, the "Guru of Giggling", children can laugh up to 300 to 400 times a day, compared to adults who laugh just 15 times a day! Kataria says: "In March 1995, I thought of writing an article on 'Laughter ?The Best Medicine' for My Doctor, a health magazine that I edited. When I found a large amount of scientific literature on the benefits of laughter on the human mind and body, I was amazed that very few people laugh and smile in Mumbai! I was very impressed by American journalist Norman Cousins' book, Anatomy Of An Illness, in which he described how he laughed his way out of an incurable disease of the spine ?ankylosing spondylitis. I also read about the research work done by Dr. Lee S. Berk from Loma Linda University, California, who showed how mirthful laughter reduced the stress hormone levels in the body and the effects of laughter on the immune system.


Every morning 1,000 groups all over India meet in public
parks to practise Yogic Laughter, a combination of laughter
exercises and yogic breathing.

"At 4.00 a.m. on 13 March, 1995, I was pacing up and down in my living room and suddenly had an idea: If laughter is so good, why not start a Laughter Club? I decided not to publish the article. Instead, I went to a public park at Lokhandwala Complex and spoke to people about starting a Laughter Club. The remarkable thing about this idea was that I conceived it at 4.00 a.m. and within three hours a plan was put into action."

Kataria discussed the idea of starting a Laughter Club with people taking their morning walks. Initially people dismissed the concept. Out of 400 people walking in the park, he motivated four people to start laughing, standing in one corner of the park. When the health benefits were explained, many became interested and the attendance started growing.

All the participants were made to form a circle and Kataria would invite someone to stand in the centre and tell a joke or recount a humorous anecdote. People enjoyed the fun and felt better after 10 to 20 minutes of laughter every morning. However, after a fortnight, the stock of good jokes ran out. Stale jokes, jokes targeted at a particular community, hurtful jokes and dirty jokes were told, which embarrassed many members, especially women. Jokes were banned and it was decided that the club members would laugh without them. Kataria skilfully connected laughter with yoga.


Greeting Laughter (Namaste Laughter): Join your hands
and look into each otherís eyes and share a laugh.


 


"I would like to remind the whole world that human beings are the only species blessed by the Almighty with the gift of laughter. Laughter is a universal language, which has the potential to unite humanity.

The way the Laughter Clubs movement is spreading across the world, it leaves me with no doubt that laughter is a common link among nations. If we consider the entire world as an extended family and develop the network of Laughter Clubs worldwide, it will build up global consciousness of brotherhood and friendship.

"On this auspicious day, I appeal to every human being on this planet to just laugh or say 'Ha Ha Ha' for a few seconds and send out the vibrations into the universe. Close your eyes and pray for world peace."

Dr. Madan Kataria
Founder-President
Laughter Club International

World Laughter Day, which falls on the first Sunday in May, was celebrated this year on 1 May, 2005.
 

Laughter Sessions
A typical laughter session is a perfect blend of various stimulated laughter techniques interspersed with breathing and stretching exercises. Direct eye contact is the key to induce further laughter. When participants look at each other's faces and do these exercises, it generates natural laughter as everyone has a peculiar style of laughing. A laughter session of 20 to 30 minutes is generally divided into the following parts:

(a) Deep Breathing: Members stretch their hands upwards and take a deep breath, hold it for some time and then 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.

(b) Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha Chanting: This is done in unison along with rhythmic clapping or with arm movements without clapping. It is based on yogic dynamic breathing techniques. It charges the whole atmosphere with laughter. Since everyone can easily participate in this exercise, each one feels a sense of achievement. This also helps members to shed their inhibitions.

(c) Rhythmic Clapping: This is a warm-up exercise done with fully stretched hands, which stimulates acupressure points on the palms and helps to bring a sense of well-being and builds energy levels.

(d) Value-based and Yogic Laughter Techniques: A special meaning is attached to certain gestures made while laughing so that the subconscious mind registers its deep values and that helps to develop a positive attitude. For instance, Appreciation Laughter reminds members how important it is to appreciate others in order to build a strong and harmonious relationship. There are other value-based laughters such as Greeting Laughter, Forgiveness Laughter, Shake-Hand Laughter, Hugging Laughter, Guru Laughter, etc. Yogic Laughter techniques are developed from different yoga postures for physical well-being, such as Hearty Laughter, Lion Laughter, Humming Laughter, Gradient Laughter, etc.

(e) Playful Laughter Techniques: The purpose is to help members become more playful so that they can reduce their inhibitions and shyness. Playfulness also helps to make stimulated laughter more spontaneous. A person can become more creative and imaginative. Some examples are One Metre Laughter, Milkshake Laughter, Argument Laughter, Mobile Phone Laughter, Hot Chinese Laughter, Japanese Shy Laughter, Swinging Laughter, etc.

(f) Closing Technique: At the end of the session, three slogans are chanted. The anchor-person delivers the first punch line by saying: "We are the happiest people in the world." Everyone in the group raises their arms and says: "Y-e-s." "We are the healthiest people in the world!" "Y-e-s." "We are Laughter Club members!" "Y-e-s."

After the slogans, all members stretch their arwms out towards the sky, close their eyes and pray in silence for 30 to 60 seconds for world peace.

?AND LET THE WORLD LAUGH WITH YOU!
 


Members of a senior citizens?home participating in a laughter session in Philadelphia, USA.

Disabled children enjoy a laughter session in Perth, Australia.
   

Dr. Kataria laughs with a group of orphans in Chennai, South India.

Dr. Kataria shares a laugh with clowns at St. Petersburg, Florida, USA.
   

Dr. Kataria with John Cleese, the famous English actor, during his visit to Mumbai.

A laughter workshop in Hamburg, Germany.
   

East meets West through laughter: Dr. Kataria with Steve Wilson in the U.S.

A Laughter Club in action in Zurich, Switzerland.

LCI's Aims
Kataria founded the Laughter Club International in 1997 with the help of visionary Senior Vice President J.K. Kapur, and dynamic leader and Vice President Mohit Kapoor. At present there are more than 800 Laughter Clubs in the world. World Laughter Day is celebrated every year globally on the first Sunday in May.

The following are the aims of Laughter Club International:
 

To create awareness of the new yogic technique of laughter therapy all over India and other parts of the world, by setting up more Laughter Clubs and imparting practical training in various techniques of laughter.

To set up a team of doctors from various specialities and systems of medicine to conduct scientific studies and research as to how laughter can affect the physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being of the participants.
Publish journals and set up libraries of books, video cassettes, CDs and other information on laughter therapy.
Bring people of various countries together and bring everlasting peace through laughter.

The outstanding feature of Laughter Clubs is that there is no membership fee. Laughter is absolutely free!

Imagine a member laughing in a Laughter Club in the morning and then shouting at his wife the whole day at home. It just doesn't make sense! Laughter should be reflected in one's behaviour and attitude towards others. Laughter Clubs cultivate this inner spirit of laughter. Through group discussions, members identify negative factors such as anger, fear, jealousy, etc., which stop them from laughing and cultivate positive emotions such as love, appreciativeness, kindness, forgiveness and joy.

The LCI plans to shortly start extensive medical research on various aspects of physical, mental and spiritual health. "We are expecting funding of these research projects by national and international organisations, and the benefit of medical research will be passed on to all the affiliated clubs. We so plan to have a computerised health file for all Laughter Club members in the near future," says Dr. Kataria.

Laughter Clubs are gradually being recognised by social organisations, corporate houses and other industries. Kataria adds: "Many bosses felt that workers may not understand the concept well. Many of them, and rightly so, were waiting for its bonafides to be proved. I gave seminars and demonstrations in many offices and factories. I found some resistance from the management, who were not very keen on mixing with their workers, because they feared that the workers might not respect them or might disobey them if they laughed together. Usually, they would send their managers to attend the sessions and they themselves refused to come out of their cabins. Fortunately this fear was proved wrong when we successfully implemented this programme in many factories and offices in Mumbai."

Moreover, there are other advantages of laughter therapy in the workplace:

  1. Deep breathing, neck stretching and shoulder stretching exercises help remove stiffness and pain resulting from stress and a sedentary lifestyle.

  2. Laughter therapy increases resistance to illness by stimulating the body's immune system. It significantly reduces the frequency of coughs, colds and throat and chest infections.

  3. It helps to control many diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, depression, allergic disorders, asthma, bronchitis, tension and migraine headaches, as well as aches and pains due to arthritis, cervical spondylitis and backache.

  4. Laughter therapy is one of the easiest types of meditation, which promotes instant relaxation.

  5. Laughter Club members learn to follow ways and means of sensible living, like paying compliments, the art of forgiveness and understanding human relationships.

  6. By holding periodic seminars the Club imparts practical training to help members discover their own sense of humour and celebrate life in spite of its tough challenges.

  7. Employees start believing in the philosophy that motion creates emotion. If one acts like a happy human being the first thing in the morning, one's chemistry will become lively.

  8. Every human being has infinite potential to perform and achieve anything he/she desires, but most of his power lies dormant and untapped. Through laughter therapy and meditation, one can release one's infinite potential and achieve greater heights in life.

Breaking inhibitions and allowing the humour to flow is the breakthrough Laughter Club International has achieved. It has succeeded in making thousands of people laugh in a country like India, where people hardly ever laugh or smile. The same people who never used to smile have now started telling jokes ?they have started being playful and creative.

So, Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha! Learn the art of living through laughter.

Rashna Ardesher



 

 

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