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Laughter Yoga With Prisoners

Prisoners harbor a lot of anger and depression inside of them which needs to be removed, in order to prevent them from committing further acts of crimes, whether it be inside or after being released from jail. Laughter Yoga has been proven that it helps in resolving long standing negative emotions in criminals and places them in a much more positive frame of mind.

With increase in crime all over the world, the prisons are overburdened with prisoners living under extremely stressful circumstances. They experience a lot of anxiety and trauma due to overcrowding, improper hygiene, lack of food and basic amenities. This keeps them in a state of constant turmoil, which invariably leads to lifelong damage of emotional stability. This negative mindset is very difficult to change. In fact, it gets more deep-rooted and allows hardly any room for reform.

How Laughter Can Help Prisoners

Offers Emotional Release - Ostracized by society, shunned by family and friends these convicts suffer from guilt and frustration. No amount of therapy or talking helps as they have no certain way of relieving these feelings. This is where Laughter Yoga can help. It is the only tool that reduces stress almost instantaneously. Being cathartic in nature, it helps to release pent up feelings through laughter, thus improving the physical, mental and emotional wellness of prisoners. It also provides new ways to deal with these strong emotions in a healthy, non-violent and non-confrontational way.

Reduces Stress - Therapeutic laughter reduces stress levels quickly and naturally, and provides new ways of dealing with it. By providing a new mental perspective, laughter often converts the perceptions of problems that were seen as huge to minor irritations. It also improves mood-state and an increased willingness to participate in voluntary training, education and work opportunities that are offered.

Improves Health & Reduces Health-Related Costs- Regular therapeutic laughter sessions provide excellent cardio and aerobic exercise, increasing oxygen levels in the bloodstream and to major organs. Physiologically, laughter boosts performance of the immune, digestive and cardiovascular systems.

Laughter Yoga is being practiced in several prisons in India, Europe and the USA. British actor John Cleese visited a Mumbai prison in 2001 during the creation of a documentary for BBC about Human Expressions. He found that laughter had quite an impact on the prisoners and the atmosphere in prison generally lightened. There have been positive changes in prisoner attitudes, better prisoner-staff relations and reduced violence.

John Cleese visits Mumbai Prison:

In 2001 famous English actor John Cleese came to Mumbai, to make a BBC documentary titled ‘‘Human Face’’ and Laughter Clubs of India were a part of that series. During his visit, I took him to many Laughter Clubs, factories and finally to Arthur Road prison, for a Laughter session. Laughter among prisoners was a humbling experience. I obtained permission from the police authorities to hold a Laughter session among the undertrials. One hour before the session, I went to the overcrowded prison premises, to build a rapport with them. As I explained the concept, about 70-80 prisoners opted to join the laughter session. I was not too sure whether they would laugh or not, because they looked sad, angry and depressed. Some of them had mask-like faces.  Along with my laughter leaders, I started with different laughter exercises. After initial hesitation, they opened up and laughed uproariously, as if all their anger had transformed into laughter. At the end of the session, everybody seemed happy, and asked when they would laugh like this again.

I spoke to many prisoners after the session, and realized they harbored a lot of anger and depression inside of them which needed to be removed, in order to prevent them from committing further acts of crime once released from jail. I knew Laughter Yoga could certainly help in resolving these long standing negative emotions in criminals, and putting them into a positive frame of mind. In fact, this is my dream project, and I am sure I will soon gain permission for such an initiative in India, and the day is not far off, when this idea will be implemented worldwide for not just prisoners but also the jail staff, warden and others who constantly live under pressure and stress.

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