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Laugh your way to fitness

It’s known as Hasya Yoga

It does wonders for your heart and every part of your body. You don’t need costly equipment or Nike shoes or trips to the gym. It just takes 15 minutes every day. You can do it almost anywhere. And it costs absolutely nothing. All you have to do is throw your head back and have a hearty laugh!

Recognition of laughter’s therapeutic potential is growing. The benefits are so powerful that people have formed clubs where the only agenda is to laugh. There are now almost 8, adiposity 000 laughter clubs worldwide, healing including several well-known ones in Mumbai.

And here in Goa, a group of folks get together regularly in Siolim to laugh their hearts out – even if you can’t exactly call it an ‘official’ laughing club.

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are laughter clubs in India given that ‘laughter yoga’ was invented by an Indian: Dr. MadanKataria. His exercise routines involving laughter sparked this worldwide phenomenon.

And here is what he told Streets:

“Laughter Yoga is a unique exercise routine, which combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (Pranayama).”

Surprisingly, laughter yoga does not involve comedy or humor.

“Laughter is initially simulated as a physical exercise while maintaining eye contact with others in the group and promoting childlike playfulness,” Dr. Katariaexplains. “In most cases, this soon leads to real and contagious laughter. Science has proved that the body cannot differentiate between simulated and real laughter.”

To be sure, much of the international scientific community believes that more testing is required before that or other claims involving laughter yoga can be verified.

“The definitive research into the potential health benefits of laughter just hasn’t been done yet,” Robert R. Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, told the website

In terms of hard science, it isn’t known for sure whether it’s the laughter that’s helping so much or other factors such as a positive attitude, a good sense of humor or the support of family and friends.

However, evidence does point to real benefits of laughter.

Kataria, a medical doctor from Mumbai popularly known as the ‘Guru of Giggling’ (London Times), is the founder of the Laughter Yoga Clubs movement started in 1995.

His sessions start with gentle warm-up techniques which include stretching, chanting, clapping and body movement which break down inhibitions and develop feelings of childlike playfulness.

“Breathing exercises are used to prepare the lungs for laughter, followed by a series of ‘laughter exercises’. These exercises, when combined with the strong social dynamics of group behavior, lead to prolonged and hearty unconditional laughter,”saysDr. Kataria.

Alexyz is a well known Goan cartoonist who makes people laugh and does a fair bit of laughing himself. “Goa had a few laughter clubs?the Laughter Club of Porvorim in 1999 and Laughter Club of Miramar in 1998,” he says.

“We have a small group in Siolim that bursts into laughter everyday with our yoga. We meet at 6 am to do yoga and we wind up with laughter …. It’s not an official laughter club. But we are just some bodies who love to have a good laugh. Why not? It puts us in the mood to have a lovely happy day,” says Alexyz.

The ‘Laughing Gas Company’, an offshoot of yoga enthusiasts led by Siolim-based yoga teacher Uddesh Pangam,together with Alexyz, organised a laughter programme for students of St. Francis Xavier’s High School, Siolim in January this year on World Laughter Day.

“I am keen on forming a laughter club,” says Alexyz. “In 2008, I had a solo show of 50 exhibits titled ‘Laughter’ at Yolanda’s Gallery in Calangute which also included laughter competitions. Come home and you will see a little toon of mine with the quote of Nicholas Chamfort?‘Of all days, the day on which one has not laughed is surely the most wasted.’”

Laughter yoga proponents say a good ha-ha helps build the immune system and increase blood circulation. They say it is a good stress buster, alleviates depression, reduces blood pressure, and helps relieve allergies, asthma andarthritis.

The American College of Cardiology has found that the positive effects of laughing last for upto 45 minutes, while the effects of stress decrease the blood flow by 35 percent.

In another study, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown that laughter is linked to healthy functioning of blood vessels. Laughter appears to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate (expand), thus improving blood flow.

Professor Andrea Nelson from the University of Leeds School of Healthcare in the UK says that “having a really hearty chuckle can help…This is because laughing gets the diaphragm moving and this plays a vital part in moving blood around the body.”

The Gesundheit Institute in West Virginia uses laughter as an integral aspect of effective medical care. The Hollywood movie ‘Patch Adams’ starring Robin Williams is an example of this therapeutic laughter in medical

To avail of the potential benefits, all you need is a clear mind and a will to laugh away your blues. And considering that you might save lakhs of rupees on medical treatment, you could well be laughing all the way to the bank!




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