Laughter Yoga was developed by an Indian medical doctor, Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995 and is being practiced by hundreds of thousands of people in more than 60 countries today.
Research clearly showed that laughter strengthened the immune system – the key to our health. It also reduced stress, today’s number 1 killer and offered a simple way to treat depression and many other modern problems.
Children laugh 400 times a day during their important growth phase, but adult laughter has decreased significantly during the 20th century. Adults laugh only 5-12 times a day. Dr Kataria realized that much more laughter is needed for us to maintain optimal mental and physical health, but how could that laughter be delivered? There was no way to send people to a chemist or a clinic for a dose of laughter.
He decided to experiment and try to find a simple and reliable way to deliver the benefits of laughter to people. His first attempts were humor based --- a small group got together and told jokes and funny stories to make themselves laugh. This worked for a while, but after just weeks they started running out of fresh jokes. Dr Kataria became determined to find a way to laugh without humor in the same way that children laugh all day without jokes. He worked with his wife Mahduri, a yoga teacher. Together they adapted yogic breathing exercises that were very similar to laughter and experimented with ways to laugh without humor.
The breakthrough came when they approached laughter as a body exercise. Dr Kataria found that his laughter group could reliably induce hearty laughter with laughter exercises that incorporated elements of yogic breathing exercises. Laughter yoga was born.
SPREADING THE LAUGHTER
What has been amazing, says Dr Kataria, is to see how people took to it. Our group started with just five people, including me and my wife Mahduri. We laughed in a public park near our home. In the beginning we had more spectators laughing at us than participants in our group. Passers by were mystified --- they stared and asked us “why are you laughing? What is so funny?”
But members of the laughter group felt powerful benefits. It felt so good that they wanted to laugh every day. They told their friends how good it felt and the group expanded. After a few months more groups started around Mumbai. Newspapers wrote articles about us and interviewed group members and even more people wanted to laugh.
I was surprised, related Dr Kataria. Indians are very subdued about their emotions and seldom laughed in public, but suddenly thousands of people were laughing uproariously in public parks every morning.
Participants reported significant health improvements. Almost everyone said they stopped getting many colds and flu’s, but others reported depression lifting, chronic medical problems improving or even disappearing. Word of improvements in a wide range of illness and medical conditions spread. It became obvious that Laughter Yoga was helping people to become healthier.
FREE LAUGHTER & NEW VENUES
Laughter Yoga started in free clubs run by volunteers. There are more than 10,000 Laughter Yoga clubs around the world, with new clubs opening every week. In Europe, America and other countries laughter yoga is spreading to yoga studios and fitness centers with participants paying for the convenience of laughing in comfortable places at convenient times. Laughter Yoga is also spreading into schools, aged care facilities, hospitals, factories, supermarkets and computer companies --- even government offices and hotels.
Teachers in schools that include 10 minutes of laughter in morning assembly report that the mood and atmosphere changes for the better. Teachers and students are happier with a more positive outlook, communication is improved, less discipline is required and attendance improved. Academic results have shown improvement, especially in subjects that require creative thinking.
Depression is a major problem in aged care facilities. Laughter yoga appears to lift depression and replace it with a positive outlook. Aged care facilities report reduced depression among residents and a more positive and optimistic atmosphere. Dramatic improvements in health are common among aged people who begin to laugh regularly. Many chronic ailments reportedly improve or disappear and the aerobic exercise of laughter improves mobility and flexibility. Most centers report better staff-patient communication and relations.
Hospitals have been experimenting with laughter for years. It is widely accepted that laughter speeds healing and improves mental outlook in patients. Laughter Yoga provides a simple laughter delivery system that does not require clowns, joke books, funny movies making it easier to get patients to laugh. Some of the strongest positive feedback has come from doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are amazed how laughter yoga sessions melt away stress and make it easier for them to cope with their jobs. They say that patients comment on their happy and positive attitude.
Employers are finding that Laughter Yoga in the workplace can influence their business in positive ways. By introducing Laughter Yoga sessions, companies in different countries have reported a happier workplace, increased motivation, better communication, increases in sales and productivity, increased creativity and better teamwork, decreases in illness and absenteeism and a reduction in employee turnover. Some companies credit laughter yoga with increased profits.
Prisons that have introduced laughter yoga report positive changes in prisoner attitude, a large reduction in stress, better prisoner-staff relations and reduced violence.
It appears that the magic of laughter has the power to have impact positively on almost any field of human endeavor.