Laughter Yoga: Can Happiness Heal?

Posted: May 7, 2012 at 1:11 am


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When it comes to laughter yoga, faking it til you make it is just fine.

At least, that's what Vishwa Prakash said at the start of the session that HuffPost's health news editor Amanda Chan and I wandered into recently.

It was one of a few guidelines Prakash offered, as well as keeping our eyes locked on our fellow attendees, some 20 men and women dressed in street clothes and standing in a circle in his textile design company's midtown Manhattan offices.

And with that, we were off.

Prakash traded with other leaders who led us through several "exercises" -- we clapped, we milked imaginary cows, we blew up imaginary balloons, threw them on the ground, and exploded into laughter as we popped them with our feet. In between each set, we walked around clapping and chanting, "Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha!"

"It's bizarre, it's plain weird. Adults do not behave this way," said Sebastien Gendry, who founded the American School of Laughter Yoga, the country's largest laughter yoga training program.

"You laugh, you clap and you breathe," he continued. (You also drive imaginary bumper cars, pretend to be lions and hug perfect strangers.) "Suddenly you find yourself really laughing and you don't know why. It's fun, and you feel good."

The goal of laughter yoga is to breathe and to laugh, not because anyone has cracked a joke, but because laughter is a playful, social, contagious thing. The "yoga" label is a bit of a misnomer. There are no downward dogs or inversions, just people coming together, usually for free, for a short session of laughter. And it has become something of a global phenomenon.

According to Laughter Yoga International, a group led by the founder of Laughter Yoga and Mumbai-based physician Dr. Madan Kataria, there are about 6,000 laughter clubs across the globe. In the past decade, more than 400 have cropped up here in the U.S., and organizers expect a few thousand will celebrate "World Laughter Day" on Sunday.

How and why people find laughter yoga varies. Many come to connect with a community, Gendry said, others come for catharsis or to feel better physically.

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Laughter Yoga: Can Happiness Heal?

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May 7th, 2012 at 1:11 am

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