“Laugh Your Way to Good Health” appeared in Mumbai mirror on 8th August 2019.

 

Most of us have seen Dr. Asthana, the lovable dean of Munnabhai MBBS, who tries to overcome his short fuse by resorting to laughter. Laughter seems to work for him and perhaps for millions across the world. Laughter, now a recognized a form of therapy, dates back to an ancient branch of yoga called Hasya Yog, rediscovered and popularized by Dr Madan Kataria in 1995.

Dr Kataria, a Mumbai-based physician, during his research, found that the human mind does not distinguish between real and artificial laughter. This led him, with support from his wife Madhuri (a yoga practitioner), to combine laughter with simple yogic exercises and use it as a method of health management. They called this new therapy laughter yoga. What began as an experimental venture in a garden with just five members, turned into a revolution over a decade, with over 6,000 laughter clubs worldwide! Laughter clubs are usually non- profit organizations accessible to the general public, the purpose being to promote health, although some may ask for small donations for sustenance.

A laughter club typically has about 10 to 15 members who practice several rounds of induced laughter “loudly” such as ‘HA HA, HO HO’, along with rhythmic clapping. Dr Kataria has initiated several ingenious laughter methods to make laughing without humor, easier. Some of his popular techniques are Lion Laugh, One Meter Laugh, Elevator Laugh, Crowded Bus Laugh, and No Money Laugh.

Laughter is combined with simple yoga breathing and stretching exercises. Soon, the induced laughter turns into real laughter as participants start getting stimulated by others laughing around them and shortly the place has loud, happy sounds reverberating around.

How does laughter help?
Laughter produces endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer, which helps alleviate mood and increase energy. It also produces serotonin, a brain chemical that lowers depression, relaxes the body and promotes sound sleep.
Other benefits:
• Lowers blood pressure
• Boosts immune system
• Enhances creative thinking
• Leads to better concentration and focus
• Helps impatient and angry people relax and become calmer.

Perhaps the most important psychological payback of laughter therapy is a reduction in self-consciousness, and therefore improved self-esteem and better relationships. With its growing popularity, laughter therapy has also found its way into the corporate boardroom. Research has evidence that laughter can be one of the best ways to handle work pressure. Several organizations have initiated employee stress management programs through laughter yoga.
Critics of laughter yoga have one important observation to make. Laughter is good stress, yet too much of a good thing can have adverse effects. So, ideally, a laughter session should not extend beyond 15 to 30 minutes.
Nevertheless, with the growing pressure of life there has to be some technique out that’s simple and beneficial at the same time. Unfortunately, we don’t laugh as much as we should: Dr. Kataria says that the average child laughs almost 400 times a day while the average adult laughs just 15 times a day!
Today, everything is stressful from market conditions to living in nuclear families to global warming. In such a scenario one of the things that can really bring a change to people’s lives is laughter. It’s easy to do, cost-effective and has multiple benefits for the body and mind.