Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Boy, His Cancer, and Laughter

A recent inspiring story about a Texan boy who used laughter to overcome his cancer is a reminder of the power of love. His grandmother used her own skills as a Laughter Yoga leader to help her grandson, and the results speak for themselves.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Laughter Yoga in Austin, TX

Laughter Yoga has recently made headlines in Austin, TX. There is probably not a state in the union untouched by the magic of Laughter Yoga!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Laughter Yoga In Denver

Here's a link to a great article about Laughter Yoga in Denver, Colorado. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Film: The Laughing Club of India

Mira Nair, the famous Indian filmmaker who brought the world Monsoon Wedding, has within her oeuvre a short documentary about Laughter Yoga and the many laughter yoga social clubs in and around Mumbai. The Laughing Club of India was released in 1997 on a DVD featuring several Full Frame Documentary Festival selections.

The film focuses on several members of a Mumbai laughter club, with Nair conducting interviews in their homes, which range from upper middle class Indian homes to crowded and fetid apartments which seem to house dozens of people in near-squalid conditions. The director also follows Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga, as he leads sessions in a Mumbai high school and a corporate headquarters in New York City. Dr. Kataria is also seen visiting the home of a patient who suffered a brain injury and had been partially rehabilitated by his laughter ministrations.

While the film is quite brief, being little more than thirty minutes in length, Nair manages to give the viewer a taste of the Indian brand of Laughter Yoga and Dr. Kataria's basic approach. She also spends a fair amount of time filming actual outdoor Laughter Yoga sessions in and around Mumbai parks, giving the uninitiated viewer a very clear notion of what Laughter Yoga truly is.

For me, the most moving aspect of the film are the face to face interviews with some of the older club members who are truly inspiring in the way that they integrate the lessons of laughter into their daily lives. One walks away from this film intrigued, satisfied, and ultimately appreciative of the power of laughter to transform lives.


(Of note: the Full Frame DVD containing this short film features a number of other excellent short documentaries well worth seeing, and can be purchased here.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Laughter Yoga: An Introduction

Laughter has long been said to be the best medicine. In the 1970's, Norman Cousins popularized the notion with his seminal book, Anatomy of an Illness in which he extolled the virtues of laughter vis-a-vis improved health and well-being.

Through scientific research, it has now been proven beyond a doubt that laughter can actually help to heal the body. Laughter has many beneficial effects, including but not limited to improved lung capacity and oxygenation, lowered blood pressure, increased immune function, decreased levels of stress hormones, increased levels of beneficial hormones such a dopamine, an improved sense of well-being, improved cardiovascular tone, and improved muscle tone. Even simply smiling can improve one's health, but laughter has been shown to be significantly more effective due to its robustly physical nature.

Further research has actually demonstrated quite clearly that your body cannot actually tell the difference between "authentic" laughter and "fake" laughter, thus you can realize the same benefits even if you have nothing to actually laugh about!

Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor in Mumbai (Bombay), India, created and founded Laughter Yoga in 1995 based on the premise that anyone can laugh at any time for no reason at all. Together with his wife (a yoga teacher), Dr. Kataria developed a system of yogic breathing, clapping, movement and laughter exercises that elicit laughter in a group setting. Beginning in a Bombay park in 1995 with only four willing yet skeptical participants, there are now more than 6000 Laughter Yoga clubs in over 60 countries worldwide.

Laughter Yoga has been covered by media outlets around the world, including a visit to India by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) to investigate Dr. Kataria's work.

Studies have shown that the effects of stress take a devastating toll on the human body. Deecreased immune function, increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol, and decreased oxygenation can all reap a sorrowful harvest on the physiology of homo sapiens. We live in a complicated world, and laughter is a inexpensive and portable stress reduction tool that so many of us---myself included---often forget to utilize.

Children laugh an average of 400 times per day, whereas adults tend to laugh approximately 15 times per day. As we age, we lose our sense of the absurd, and we lose the ability to see humor in the stressors of everyday life. Cultivating laughter for no reason is a relatively easy practice that, with time, can bring many rewards and benefits.

If you would like to find a laughter yoga club near you, please visit Laughter Yoga's international website and search for clubs in your area. If you would like some homework, try laughing by yourself for 30-60 seconds every day, whether in front of the bathroom mirror, in the shower, or perhaps in the car while stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic. You can also simply visit YouTube and type "Laughter Yoga" in the search bar and watch several videos about Laughter Yoga, or type in "laughing baby" and simply delight in the natural laughter of children, unencumbered by the cares of the world.

Laughter truly is the best medicine, and as Dr. Kataria says, it is also a vehicle for world peace. If everyone was laughing rather than fighting, who would have time for war?