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Laugh yourself healthy

by Raju Thakrar

‘I want to open 1 million laughter clubs around the world in the next 10 years in the hope of bringing about world peace.”

These are the words of Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga, a popular form of yoga that has tickled followers across the world. From next week you will be able to guffaw away your worries at a series of Laughter Yoga sessions conducted by founder Kataria from March 1 to 11. This will be his first visit to Japan.

In March 1995, as a stressed-out physician practicing medicine in Mumbai, Kataria came across scientific studies praising the benefits of laughter. That’s when it came to him: Why not start a club where people can laugh together?

The first-ever laughter club meeting was held in a Mumbai park with five people. This grew to 55 people within a week and now there are more than 6,000 laughter clubs in over 60 countries. Laughter Yoga sessions have been held in schools, prisons and old people’s homes.

But until recently nobody knew how company employees would react to it. To find out, a study was conducted in Bangalore, the heart of India’s IT industry, where 200 people were randomly selected from three IT companies and divided into two groups. One group had Laughter Yoga sessions every two to three days for 18 days, and the other was the control group.

The results among the Laughter Yoga group were dramatic: a 6 percent reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 28 percent reduction in cortisol (a stress hormone secreted in saliva). Negative emotions such as fear, disappointment, distress, nervousness and misery were also observed to have decreased significantly.

“Yogic breathing exercises in Laughter Yoga increase the amount of oxygen in the blood, leading to increased productivity levels,” says Kataria. He eventually hopes to introduce this jovial style of yoga into companies in Japan.

But what of those plans for world peace?

“When I aim for something, I aim big,” chuckles Kataria. “Laughter Yoga is a simple idea, not rocket science. It’s a divine process by itself; I’m just an instrument.”

The seminars will be held March 1-11 in Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe and Nagoya, including a two-day course teaching how to become an instructor. For more details, visit www.laughteryoga.jp.