The primary reason why Dr. Kataria named “Laughter Yoga” as such was because he incorporated Pranayama, the ancient science of yogic breathing, into the laughter exercises. Laughter Yoga is therefore a form of Pranayahahama
According to yogic philosophy, we are alive because the cosmic energy from the Universe flows into our body through the breath, which is the life energy force or “prana.” The very essence of our life is breathing. Whenever we get stressed or experience negative emotions our breathing becomes irregular and shallow, thus affecting the flow of prana in our body. Laughter helps reverse that process.
Here are some of the traditional Pranayama exercises that Laughter Yoga utilizes:
Kapalbhati is a famous yogic exercise that entails contraction of the throat and palate muscles and entails a jerky and rhythmic movement of the diaphragm to expel air in a series of bursts. This is precisely the foundation of the HO-HO, HA-HA-HA exercise between each laughter exercises.
Bhastrika and Swash Shuddhi are similar yogic exercises used to clean the respiratory passages in forceful jerks of breathing and the rhythmic contraction of lung and throat muscles – the very same muscles and actions used in Laughter Yoga during the HO-HO HA-HA-HA exercise and other playful laughter.
More traditional yogic exercises used in Laughter Yoga include:
Talasana is the yogic stretching of arms and exercising the neck and shoulders while taking a deep breath.
Simha mudra is the famous lion laughter of Laughter Yoga, which entails keeping the eyes wide open, fully extending the tongue, and roaring like a lion.
“Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.” – Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Yoga is the science of right living and, as such, is intended to be incorporated in daily life. It works on all aspects of the person: the physical, vital, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual.
The word yoga means “unity” or “oneness” and is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj which means “to join.” It is a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind and emotions. It includes many mental and physical disciplines.
The most popular of these disciplines in the Western world is Hatha Yoga, an approach concerned with balancing the energies through body postures (asanas). Hatha Yoga is primarily a solitary practice with no group interactions.
Here is a list of the other most popular branches of Yoga:
Bhakti Yoga is the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion (bhakti) to a personal form of God.
Jnana Yoga is the “path of knowledge”
Karma Yoga is the science of achieving perfection in action
Raja Yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation techniques
This article details how people around the world are spreading its message of joy, health and world peace through laughter in a variety of projects that include Laughter Clubs, World Laughter Day, Universities of Joy, and more.
Laughter Clubs are local gatherings of people who just want to laugh as a form of exercise, and choose to feel good about themselves and the world they live in with other like-minded individuals.
While they do not belong to any tradition in particular, they are a primary door of expression for people who practice Laughter Yoga.
What is unique about them is that they are all fully independent, not-for-profit, non-political, non-religious and non competitive community-based associations of diverse people who choose to be happy. Everyone is welcome. Each club defines its own meeting frequency. They do not report to anybody, are not told what to do, and do not pay royalties.
Laughter Clubs are not limited by language differences. Laughter has no accent.
People come together to Laughter Clubs with a common purpose that provides social support. It’s a form of social glue. They provide a sense of belonging and of being involved in a worthwhile cause.
Because we have a common method and shared values, laughter club leaders and members form a global network to share ideas and to give each other encouragement and inspiration. Through this network the method improves continuously. New exercises are always being invented and we are discovering necessary cultural adaptations, too.
Laughter Clubs promote observances of World Laughter Day (the first Sunday in May).
They are intended to be a free, social, community-based initiative of motivated individuals.
In 2011 there are an estimated 6,000 Laughter Clubs in over 70 countries on five continents, and there is a rapid growth in countries of Asia, Africa and South America. Click here to find a Laughter Yoga Club near you.
Laughter Clubs are a primary force on the ground for peace. The first Laughter Clubs in the Middle East for example were created in 2005 in the countries of two archenemies: Israel and Iran. Today there are several dozens of Laughter Clubs in each of these countries.
Here is what happened in Iran. You may remember the riots and massive bloodshed in Teheran that followed a contested election in 2009. What did Teheran’s City Council do in an desperate effort to lighten up the mood in the city when everything else had failed? They sponsored more Laughter Clubs, and it worked.
There are now several Laughter Clubs in countries formerly at war, with "tight" regimes or experiencing marked political and social tension:
The idea to dedicate one day of the year to laughter as the expression of a desire for world peace came to Dr. Kataria in 1998.
The first “World Laughter Day” gathering took place in Mumbai, India, on 11th of January, 1998. 12,000 members from local and international Laughter Clubs joined together in a mega laughter session.
“HAPPY-DEMIC” was the first World Laughter Day gathering outside India. It took place on 9th January 2000 In Copenhagen, Denmark and more than 10,000 people gathered on Town Hall Square. The event went into the Guinness Book of World records.
This is a worthy goal with an interesting story that shows how powerful the vision of one man can be.
For years Dr. Kataria (featured in the image on the right) has been dreaming of five "Universities of Joy," one on each continent. These are not "academic" Universities but rather educational centers that will provide all the necessary knowledge and comprehension of the rapidly spreading concept of Laughter Yoga.
The thing is, he has not just been dreaming about it. He has let everybody know about his dream, wrote about it, shared his vision; over, and over, and then over again with unrelenting enthusiasm.
For years many kept telling him that this was a pointless pursuit because such a project would cost a phenomenal amount of human resources and money that he didn’t have – until 2009, that is.
In 2009 a wealthy Indian man died and donated enough money to get this project started with the first center in India. Land was bought, an architect hired, and the first steps of the construction started.
Inspired, an American philanthropist offered to help and is currently looking for an appropriate piece of land in North America.
This project is still on Indian time and much remains to be done before anything is completed. When will that be? The answer is the same as with the timing for World Peace: in due time.
When that will be is not Dr. Kataria’s concern. All he does is focus on what he can do in the present moment to the best of his abilities in a spirit of selfless service. For the rest he trusts that what is meant to happen will happen when it’s supposed to for the highest good of all involved.
We have all much to learn from such an attitude.
Click here to read more about the "Universities of Joy.
Dream 2: SS Shanti, a mobile university on a ship
This is another of Dr Kataria’s dream: a huge ship called SS Shanti (Peace Boat). It will sail around the world, connecting different people from different cultures through Laughter. It will have an on-board museum and host Laughter festivals and training programs.
Dream 3: Cultural exchange program
The idea behind the cultural exchange program is to give people an opportunity to understand each other’s culture, values and build a strong network of like-minded people who believe in love, laughter, joy, kindness, compassion and generosity. The implementation of this program is still in its infancy and done at this stage by people who either already know one another, or pro-actively contact local Laughter Club Leaders in areas they want to visit.
Dream 4: Laughter townships (Hasya Nagari)
The Laughter Yoga Foundation plans (there is no set timeline) to create community living townships of happy people. Its vision is to have a ‘Laughter City’ on the outskirts of each and every major city of the world.
From dream to reality: private initiatives that contribute to a better world
Dreaming does not stop laughter enthusiasts from being active in their community.
There is not enough space here to list all the private initiatives that people around the world have undertaken on a volunteer basis to bring laughter to others in need and help build a better world. Societal change is happening, and it’s happening from the ground up. Here are a few videos that illustrate a small portion of what is being done:
When I’m not involved with my Laughter Yoga work I instruct and help businesses with their Strategic Planning. I have been doing this since selling my last business back in 2002. I have a process that is a simple “beginning to end” way of running a business of any sort. So if Laughter Yoga were a business I would work it like this: Continue reading →
The origins of India’s well known laughing clubs is revealed in this documentary, one of the first produced on the subject. Interviews with laughter club founder Dr. Kataria and fellow laughing club members shows the significant impact laughter has on the spirit and health in India and throughout the world.
National Public Radio aired a nice piece on Laughter Yoga yesterday. The conclusion: “Even if the science remains controversial, I will try some of Dr. Kataria’s exercises. Apart from the occasional stomach cramp, it surely can’t hurt 🙂“. Read the transcript of this broadcast here.
I recently read a blog from Dr Kataria responding to an actor who said he could easily laugh on command and was wondering what more Laughter Yoga could teach him (a lot!). Dr K’s reply was outstanding as usual, and I took the liberty to build on it. Here it is:
By Maj Britt (Denmark). I’m a fitness trainer and joined my local laughter club because I thought it would be good for my immune system. I later realized however that I have gained far more than just better health. I can feel my soul healing. I’ve opened up and this practice has helped me know myself better.
Maj Britt (Denmark): Laughter Yoga has helped me gain far more than just better health. I can feel my soul healing.
I was a very serious person and was not good at playing. It’s very different now! The most beautiful thing about laughter is that you can make mistakes. I come from a family where no one is supposed to make any mistakes. It is such a relief to know that one can make a mistake and it’s OK.
Laughter Yoga has also helped me heal from an important rejection by someone I loved. We had a lot of problems and then suddenly he left without saying goodbye. I was very sad and then I remembered what Dr Kataria had told me, to simply say “So What?”. After I said that I started crying and ended up laughing. I could see how ridiculous the whole thing was and I felt much better. I feel I can do anything in the Universe. I know that when I’m feeling low and depressed I can laugh and that it will help me lighten up become my happy self again.