A modern fairy tale
Once upon a time there was a medical doctor in India. He wrote an article for a well known medical magazine. This article was all about the benefits of laughter.
In his research he found out that laughter really is the best medicine for almost every pain and ache, it has so much benefits.
He was very interested in a guy named Norman Cousins, who cured himself from a bad disease with vitamine C and laughter and lived about 20 years longer than expected.
And he was impressed by the works of Lee Berk from Loma Linda University who researched the benefits of laughter for more than 30 years. Amongst those benefits you’ll find an increase of oxygen levels in your blood, creation of more endorphins en dopamines and a lowering of the stress hormone cortisol.
But the most impressed he was by the work of Patch Adams. Beautifully played by Robin Williams in the movie Patch. He brought humor and laughter into the hospitals, believing that people felt better while laughing and connecting, instead of being treated with seriousness and medicine.
Seriousness is a disease – Bagwan
So, way back in 1995, he decided to test the outcome of the researches. To test of laughter indeed makes you feel better. He started the first laughter club ever.
Dr. Madan Kataria, that is his name, found 4 people willing to test this with him. And with the 5 of them they went to a park in Mumbai to start laughing.
In the beginning they executed laughter in the same way the experiments of the researchers were conducted. Someone would tell a joke and everybody started to laugh.
Within two weeks the club had grown from 5 to 50 people. But, complaints started to come in as well. Two things happened.
First of all they ran out of jokes. Because a joke has to have an element of surprise. After two weeks all jokes were told.
But secondly you can imagine that not everybody liked all the jokes. Like: there are three man in bar. A moslim, a christian and a buddhist. Somebody would always be offended.
Dr. Kataria went back to his researches, knowing that he saw something important. And on March 13th 1995, he found it. In the morning he went back to the group to show them what the solution to the problem would be. In his research he read the following:
Your body cannot differentiate real and fake laughter.
So when you fake your laughter you still release those happy hormones like endorphins en dopamines, you still inhale way more oxygen and exhale a lot more waste and you start to feel better and happier.
They decided to put that to the test. They just started laughing. At first it was weird. But that actually helped them. Because of the weirdness they started to laugh more. And more. Finally they laughter for about ten minutes and then it stopped.
This is when and where Laughter Yoga was born.
Laughter Yoga is called that way because it used yogi breathing exercises combined with laughter. We preferably do laughter yoga in a group because laughter is contagious. A fake laugh soon turns into real laughter. And an hour laughter club or workshop has the same outcome as a good workout.
More about laughter (yoga) (text in Dutch, video’s in English)
- Lee Berk – the science of laughter and chocolate
- Ida Albakani – TEDx talk about laughter yoga
- Robin Williams – meeting with Koko the Gorilla
I wish you lots of laughter.