Laughter Yoga is a revolutionary idea—simple and profound. An exercise routine, it is fast sweeping the world and is a complete well-being workout.
It is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician from Mumbai who started the first laughter club in a park on March 13th, 1995, with just five people. Today, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than six thousand social laughter clubs in sixty countries.
Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (Pranayama).
Anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy.
Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group but with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.
The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter.
One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.
Laughter Yoga clubs are social clubs, and free for all. There is no membership fee, no forms and no fuss. They are run by volunteers trained as laughter teachers and leaders. These clubs are non-political, non-religious and non-profit run under the aegis of Laughter Clubs International in India and Laughter Yoga International in the rest of the world.
The ultimate objective is to bring good health, joy and world peace through laughter. Laughter is universal with no language and cultural barriers.
The clubs are fast developing into a worldwide community of like-minded people who believe in unconditional love, laughter and fellowship.
Every first Sunday of May is celebrated as World Laughter Day. In the year 2000, nearly 10,000 people laughed together in Copenhagen, Denmark to create a new world record.
In India there are thousands of these clubs that meet every morning in public parks. Club members proudly report that they haven’t missed a day in five years or more. They say it makes them happy, healthy and energized—in effect, it has changed their lives.
They are full of positive energy that makes it easy to cope with stress and impossible to be depressed.
In fact, the impact of laughter is so profound that many practitioners claim they no longer need anti-depressants.
The sustained positive emotions keep them coming back for more. Participants report significant health improvements. Many felt a reduced frequency of respiratory infections like common cold and flu, while others reported depression lifting, chronic medical problems improving or even disappearing. As the word spread, it was obvious that Yoga Laughter was helping people to become healthier.
Clinical research has been conducted at the University of Graz in Austria, Bangalore (India) as well as in the United States has shown that laughter lowers the levels of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood. It fosters a positive and hopeful attitude. One is less likely to succumb to stress and feelings of depression and helplessness if one is able to laugh away the troubles.
This effortless type of Yoga has been introduced in many schools in India. It includes ten minutes in the morning assembly of laughter followed by a five minute session in the classrooms at the beginning and end of the day.
This regular practice has improved the mood and atmosphere, with students and teachers happier, communication improved, less discipline needed and attendance improved.
Apart from India, there are laughter clubs in Ithaca College in New York and Minnesota that attract many youngsters and are fast becoming popular.
The concept is gaining popularity in the business community as well. It is a powerful force for improving staff performance in the workplace.
Confirmed by studies, it has shown substantial stress reduction and a big increase in staff ability to perform their jobs after just three weeks of laughter sessions.
Practiced among seniors in many aged care facilities in Canada, USA, Israel and Europe, Laughter Yoga is an ideal form of exercise that can help them to get complete health benefits of laughter, since their cognitive skills are compromised due to senile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.