19 April 2013,09:10:16 BST
Laughter Yoga is a revolutionary idea – simple and profound, it has already become a worldwide phenomenon. An exercise routine that is a complete wellbeing workout is sweeping the world.
The brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, a Physician from Mumbai, India, launched the first Laughter Club at a Park in 1993, with a small handful of people. Today, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 6000 Social Laughter Clubs in about 60 countries.
Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughter with Yogic Breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on humour, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.
The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.
The goal of laughter yoga is to breathe and to laugh. The "yoga" label is a bit of a misnomer. There are people just coming together, for a short session of laughter.
Dr. Michael Miller, the director of the preventive cardiology program at the University of Maryland's Medical Center, previously investigated the effect laughter can have on the vascular system. In a study presented to the American College of Cardiology, Miller and his colleagues found that showing healthy adults a funny movie scene increased blood flow by more than 20%.
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 worldwide. 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.
Investigators have developed a particular focus on the possible health benefits of laughter. Some of the more prominent work has come from the cardiovascular arena.
"I can tell you that if you have active emotion, it works," Miller said. "How that parlays into reducing the risk of heart attacks is still to be determined, and to what extent passive laughing, like a simple chuckle, makes a difference remains to be established."
Other studies have suggested that laughter helps burn calories and increases one's heart rate. In another, researchers from Japan found that laughter may help lower blood sugar levels -- a boon for diabetes patients.