We love to laugh. I love to laugh. Laughing is now regarded as beneficial to our physical health as well as mental health. We expel stale air from our lungs. We increase oxygen flow by taking in gulps of air when we laugh. It massages the spleen, the liver, the heart. We often feel a glow after a bout of laughter. All our worries seem to fall away and oftentimes those feelings, those wonderful feelings often stay with us for a while. And if one is laughing, we often discover many of our problems don’t seem to be that important. It’s almost as if the human being simply prefers laughing.
So how come we don’t do it very often? According to Albert Nerenberg, the director of a current documentary called Laughology, seriousness has become a serious problem in the West. And many people have lost their laugh and have become almost obsessively serious. In fact it happened to him (and me) and this why he decided to make a film about it. His film investigates in detail the history of laughter as compared to humor. Robert Provine, author of the book called Laughter, in an interview in Albert’s film, says that humor is tens of thousands years old while laughter is millions of years old; and he goes on to say that our laugh is related to animals who pant as they play. He says their panting is very similar to the sound of our “ha ha ha” laughter. Try it out for yourself and use the words “ha ha ha” as if you’re panting and you’ll get the gist.
What is most interesting is that most laughter comes from no joking material according to the scientists who have researched our laughter in normal everyday conversations. They estimate only about 15% of what we laugh at is considered to be jokey.
And so where does laughter yoga come into play here and what about this World Laughter Day that’s coming up on May 1? Dr. Madan Kataria was a medical doctor in India who started researching the benefits of laughter for a newsletter he was publishing. In 1995 he got so excited about the research that he decided to start the very first Laughter Club. The clubs became so prolific in Mumbai that he eventually retired from his medical practice to take laughter yoga globally. It is now in over 65 countries where millions of people are laughing in parks, studios, churches, and offices throughout the world.
Laughter yoga is basically working with two different sets of assumptions. It asserts that we can laugh for no reason, meaning that we can fake it and get the same health results as real laughter. And, he discovered that laughter can become an exercise so that we can get our regular dose of laughter. The laughter yoga exercises include some yogic exercises as well as other types of playful exercises to promote laughter.
So what does all this have to do with World Laughter Day? Because Dr. Kataria created it! Not only to have a day where people can focus on laughter and enjoy the wonderful benefits but also indirectly to spread the word of this new movement of laughter yoga.
He planned it to be the first Sunday in May and has allowed all his teachers and students and followers to do something special on that day, whether it’s laughing while walking down the streets of a busy city, laughing inside a building at a designated time, letting people experience an hour-long laughter yoga session, or some people are even using the new flash mob games to include laughter in restaurants, outdoors, in parks, in shopping malls. And because laughter yoga hasn’t been branded yet, people are free to be creative using all sorts of various exercises, indigenous rituals, acting games, so that people can simply laugh.
If you go to India you’ll most likely find elderly people in outdoor parks clapping and shouting “ho ho ha ha ha” or pretending they are laughing into their cell phones as they mingle and mill around while laughing away. There are numerous videos of various laughter yoga exercises on YouTube. In some cultures they will use singing as a way to promote and simulate laughter. In the US where independence reigns there are more juicy and creative exercises that have been emerging; and because it naturally is a spontaneous event there has been an explosion of various forms of laughter that include laughter games, laughter parties, some indigenous rituals that were created and designed to use laughter to keep their tribes alive and spirited… and often times laughter yoga exercises are included with dancing, shaking and other forms of movement. One will likely see forms of laughter now in workshops, classes, yoga studios, dance halls, acting workshops. And the classes are sprouting up in senior housing facilities, cancer groups, men’s groups, Alzheimer’s groups, hospice support groups, corporate boardrooms, nonprofit staff meetings…. and the list goes on… since we all love to laugh and seriousness has become the new epidemic… hahahhaha.
We love to laugh. Laughing is not only physically healthy for us but mentally as well. Laughter can immediately halt our judgments of others. Laughter can smooth out our negative outlook or viewpoints. Wouldn’t it be great if there was more laughter in the world and in our own lives? Well, now we don’t have to have a reason to laugh. We can simply laugh… and whether we use it as an exercise or not we can get all sorts of benefits from it. You can do it right now… You can even laugh at me if you dare, hahhahha just to get you to laugh.
In Santa Barbara there have been 14 people trained as laughter yoga leaders. In San Luis Obispo there are about 10 people who have been trained. Some are incorporating the new laughter yoga skills and exercises into their own workshops and some are leading the more traditional laughter yoga sessions at yoga studios, churches, parks, and nonprofit offices, etc. Being a laughter yoga teacher, I can simply attest that it is so much fun to see and experience people laughing and because not only is laughing contagious but there is such a strong desire in people to simply want to laugh, want to shift our consciousness into having and experiencing more fun and laughter. I mean why were we put onto this glorious planet, spinning endlessly through vast expanses of the universe? to be slaves? to be grumpy serious bipeds?… or to enjoy the fruits all around us with a smile and a laugh? and to taste that universal love and peace that we say we want so much!!
World Laughter Day is May 1, this year. To see video samples of laughter yoga simply go to youtube and type in laughter yoga.