Laugh yourself to good health, says India’s giggling guru

Agence France Presse

Published — Saturday 1 December 2012

Last update 30 November 2012 8:04 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

India’s “guru of giggling” Madan Kataria, who has got thousands of people guffawing globally in pursuit of better health, has an unexpected confession — he hasn’t got a very good sense of humor.
“But you don’t require one to laugh,” chortles Kataria, founder of “Laughter Yoga,” a movement that has attracted fans worldwide including celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Goldie Hawn.
Kataria — who travels constantly spreading his “laugh with no reason” gospel — has been hired by multinationals from computer giant Hewlett-Packard to automaker Volvo to hold team-building laughter sessions.
Now he is setting up a “Laughter University” in the southern city of Bangalore on land donated by a building contractor and $250,000 from an anonymous tycoon.
“In three months we will start building and by the end of 2013 we will be up and running. We want to build a worldwide community headquarters of laughter yoga,” he said.
Kataria envisions holding laughter sessions and conferences at the center and setting up an alternative medicine unit to expand medical knowledge about the beneficial health effects of laughter.
Studies already suggest laughter releases feel-good endorphins, the brain chemicals that are linked with a sense of wellbeing.
“Laughing is the healthiest thing you can do — it’s the best medicine,” said the towering, bald 58-year-old, whose movement has inspired thousands of “Laughter Clubs” in India and around the world from Beirut to Dublin.
Kataria also holds laughter sessions in schools, prisons, hospitals and retirement homes, and a few years ago testified before a US Senate committee that laughter yoga could help the country cut health care costs.
A qualified doctor, he hit upon medical literature advocating laughter as a stress-buster and remedy for other ailments. In 1995 he decided to “field-test” his findings before setting up the first of his clubs.
Kataria started with four strangers in a Mumbai park. They stood in a circle and “laughed like hyenas,” he recalled. Numbers soon swelled to around 50.
They recounted jokes but realized they didn’t have enough gags — then he found that the body was unable to distinguish between fake and genuine laughter with both producing the same “happy, healing chemistry.”
“Anyway, fake laughter turns into real laughter after a few moments. Try it,” he said.
He persuaded his group to laugh with him for one minute with no reason. It stretched into 10 minutes as the laughter turned infectious — and the Laughter Yoga movement was born.
“Laughter is more about social connection and bonding than something being funny,” Amit Sood, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, told AFP.
“Studies show all kinds of benefits from laughter from better immunity and coping skills, lower stress, better relationships to improved digestion,” he said.
Many Indian parks now host sessions every morning with peals of laughter ringing out from people standing in groups.
“It relaxes me. If I laugh in the morning, the rest of the day goes well,” said Lisa Singh, 39, one regular “laugher” in New Delhi.
Kataria, who runs his non-profit Laughter Yoga Institute with a dozen employees from his Mumbai home, says one needs a full 15-to-20 minutes of giggling daily to reap the full benefits. Researchers believe it may be the use of abdominal muscles in laughing that triggers the release of endorphins — a phenomenon also associated with exercise, such as running.
“It’s not enough to just watch a funny movie because you just laugh a few seconds at a funny line — you need to laugh for a stretch to get the rewards,” Kataria said.
Kataria was the youngest of 14 children from a poor farming family in the state of Punjab. Six siblings died as medical help was too far away and his mother set her heart on him becoming a doctor.
She sold her gold bangles so he could go to medical school. He qualified as a physician but was more drawn to acting and admits he was a “bit of a showman.”
“My family was rather disappointed — but now they have seen how big Laughter Yoga has become, they’re proud,” he said.
His talent to engage people came across at a recent financial analysts’ team-building session in New Delhi.
He stretched his arms out and led off with his signature “tee-hee, ho, ho” that finally gave way to unrestrained bellows.
There were a few nervous titters, then within minutes the room was engulfed by laughter and some people were wiping away tears.
“Laughter is contagious — like yawning,” said Kataria who intersperses the merriment with deep breathing yoga exercises and stretching.
“We need to laugh to help us deal with life, which can be very difficult,” he said, briefly sounding serious.
“When you laugh you’re joyful — you’re living in the moment.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Kingdom has taken the right approach to counter the operations of terrorists groups, which includes cutting off their funding, according to several leading experts.This comes in the wake of Saudi Arabia blacklisting on Thursday 12 people...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) won the award for providing the Best E-Government Service among Gulf Cooperation Council countries.The award, “Best E-Government Service” for the E-Commercial Registration, was given during the four...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Education and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) have signed several agreements to boost science and technology teaching at schools.The agreements were inked by Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud, p...
RIYADH: The Kingdom and Britain signed an executive agreement on Wednesday in Riyadh on medical training for Saudi postgraduate students on specialized subjects.The agreement was signed by Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Minister of State for Com...
JEDDAH: Of youths under the age of 20, 5 to 10 percent suffer from diabetes, said Vice President of the Saudi Society for Children’s Medicine and head of the third annual conference for diabetes patients Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Toweim.The two-day...
TAIF: Voters taking photographs inside election booths would have their votes disqualified for the municipal council elections taking place on Dec. 12, according to Taif’s election committee.They would also be excluded if they use their mobile phones...
ISLAMABAD: Jamia Ashrafiya President Sheikh Fahad Rahim has lauded the role of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman as well as the Muslim World League (MWL) in serving the cause of Islam and uniting Muslims around the world.He was speaking d...
JEDDAH: The Memon Welfare Society (MWS) felicitated meritorious students from the community at its fourth annual awards distribution ceremony here recently.Abdullah Yousuf was the first to come and take his prize for securing top position in Grade 8...
RIYADH: A Filipino worker claims that he has been waiting for over a year for his former company to pay him SR68,880, which is his end-of-service benefit after leaving the company last November and returning home.Bukhari Nor Cali, 59, from Mindanao,...
JEDDAH: Adults are often the last ones to know when a child is bullied at school. However, parents or school authorities should step in if any child is being beaten, threatened or taunted by another pupil. A high school boy was beaten up and harassed...
RIYADH: Six winners — five authors and a researcher from scientific and educational institutions — have been announced as winners in the King Abdul Aziz Book Award this year.The committee for the King Abdulaziz Book Award said the works of the winner...
RIYADH: The Kingdom now has 67 female lawyers out of 3,400 in the country, according to a report released by the Justice Ministry.The report said that 65 male lawyers were registered at the beginning of the Islamic year on Oct. 14, and four female la...
JEDDAH: Jeddah police are investigating the theft and signature forgery of six checks from the Jeddah municipality headquarters.The Anti-Forgery Department was assigned to locate all information related to the check forgery cases. Local media estimat...
MAKKAH: Certain areas of Makkah witness a regular scene in the morning of a number of men waiting for car-washing work and make some money.After their morning duties, these men leave for other work as plumbers, electricians and rock breakers in mount...
RIYADH: A ‘Diabetes Detection’ campaign has been launched under the National Diabetes Prevention and Control Program of the Ministry of Health (MoH).The MoH has joined efforts with the Al-Abeer Medical Group, KIMS Sun City medical centers and the AXA...

Events & Exhibitions

Stay Connected