Speaking of Happiness | Laughter Yoga | the Giggling Guru Madan Kataria

I’ve written two former blogs regarding the subject of happiness. One published on March 10, 2010, in this same blog, regarding guides to living a longer and happier life.

https://digesthis.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/guides-to-living-longer-happier-lives-right-here-right-now

and a previous article about happiness published in my other blog http://carolkeiter.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/happiness

I recently read an article in the New Yorker about laughter yoga, made popular as an exercise routine developed by the Indian physician Madan Kataria.

The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on the scientific observation that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughter_Yoga
a form of yoga employing self triggered laughter

Having come across this article which was printed in the August 30th, 2010 New Yorker magazine, I have to share it. Woops, I don’t have access to the digital version.

Here’s the link

http://madankataria.posterous.com/giggling-guru-madan-kataria-and-laughter8217s

and here’s an abstract, shamelessly copied and pasted:

ABSTRACT: LETTER FROM INDIA about Dr. Madan Kataria and laughter yoga. In the pantheon of celebrity doctors, Madan Lal Kataria has claimed for himself what is surely the strangest mantle. He is a physician who has transformed himself into the leader of an international movement that promotes laughter as a cure for just about any ailment – physical, psychological, or spiritual. He is known as the Guru of Giggling. Estimates of the number of people who engage regularly in Kataria’s exercises are as high as two hundred and fifty thousand, but there is really no way to gather precise figures. Kataria has said that in India alone there are six thousand laughter-yoga clubs. His clubs, like Tupperware parties, are not really his: the people who form them do so without centralized direction. Kataria sells his services as a public speaker and trainer for his own profit. That is how he earns his living. Writer travels to Bengaluru, India to witness a five-day laughter-yoga session given by Kataria to twenty-one trainees. “Laughter is a choice,” he said. “A connector of people. No barriers. No language.” Kataria told his trainees that laughter yoga “is based upon the scientific fact that, even if you laugh for the sake of laughing, even if you are pretend laughing, your body cannot tell the difference.” There is no such scientific fact, but the idea may contain elements of the truth. Discusses scientific studies of the health benefits of laughter and describes the difference between Duchenne (or involuntary) laughter and non-Duchenne (or voluntary) laughter. Kataria believes that true mirthful laughter can have a liberating, transformative effect—one that momentarily erases all practical concerns, fears, needs, and even notions of time, and provides a glimpse into spiritual enlightenment. Tells about Kataria’s youth in Punjab, his early career as a doctor in Mumbai, and his hopes to become an actor. In 1991, he started a magazine that offered medical advice to lay readers. In 1995, he decided to publish an article called “Laughter—The Best Medicine.” He tested the idea out by asking passersby in a public park if they wanted to laugh with him. Describes the evolution of the club and his decision not to make money from his idea. Considers whether laughter has curative powers and discusses research by Norman Cousins, Lee Berk, and others. At the moment, perhaps the most solid scientific argument one can make about laughter and healing is that it can briefly limit physical pain, though exactly how this works is not fully understood. Writer visits Kataria’s home in Mumbai. Discusses his plans to build an ashram to be called Laughter University.

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Guides to Living Longer, Happier Lives – Right Here, Right Now!

I am in the midst of trying to re-organize a lot of things in my life. I have to move, again. I am also in the process of looking for work, because right at the same time I was informed that I must find a new place to live, several of my income sources also simultaneously “dried up”, like a local well suddenly becoming contaminated. Thing is, I have been aware of my need to upgrade to a deeper, larger and more vibrant watering hole before this whole process started, and now have no choice. I’ve been from the start trying to remain calm, and not let these impediments get in the way of things that I’ve wanted to participate in. And then yesterday, in the process of contemplating what I’d like to do, and of thinking about happiness in general, I went on yet another google research whirlwind to inquire among other things, ” Where in the world, people might be happier?”

One study which incorporated economic stability into the picture, according to this necessary ‘bias’ of the Western World…came up with Denmark as being the place where people are the happiest in the World. A dreary, gloomy often cloud covered place, where people enjoy a high standard of living, and also where there are more balanced socialized perspectives in terms of employment. In other words, there appears to be less of a social pecking order pyramid in terms of some jobs having more prestige, and more of an overall appreciation of life over work, and the idea that sharing and communicating optimism on a daily basis to others in one’s community is valued over the type of job one has.

http://www.financialjesus.com/how-to-get-rich/top-10-happiest-countries/

My point is not that I’m considering moving to Denmark. My search continued, and somehow in my trajectory I came upon this link, labeled the Blue Zones, which are what researchers discovered and labeled as the areas in the World which correspond to where people have the highest longevity.

http://www.bluezones.com

And in all of the material that I was reading and listening to, it became clear, that happiness is not a place that I or anyone else can find necessarily in a particular geographical place. It has to do with healthy physical and emotional habits; a balanced diet, a regular amount of physical activity and motion. It has much more to do with attitude than anything else. Having a sense of purpose in one’s life, recognizing the awe of life itself, in whatever way one chooses to approach this grand mystery, surrounding oneself with friends and family and embracing the daily changes with optimism.

In my other searches on ‘where people laugh and smile the most on earth’, since they don’t appear to do so with any high frequency here in Germany where I currently reside, I started doing searches.

It comes down to the fact that humor and laughter is universal in its health benefits, and I recall from the years of Thanksgiving dinners among extended family members, that there was a great deal of humor and laughter around the table, and physical exercise afterwards.

This link gets into a more philosophical inquiry about ‘what laughter is, and why we laugh’. One of the most stunning facts is that babies start laughing in the first months and kids laugh at least twice as much as adults. So, laughter is innate, is contagious just like yawning….and is associated with playful and light-hearted attitudes.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3077386/

We all just need to be more playful, and take ourselves less seriously…in order to transmit good vibes to other people that will also ripple to others; the calming, healthier signals of slowing down, enjoying life and appreciating all of the delicate morsels that it has to offer.

http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm

Note, I had to research this stuff yesterday to be reminded, to not ‘stress’ and to be optimistic, about the task that I have before me. At least now I know, that I don’t have to make a mad dash to set up house in another city/country/continent to be happy or healthy, but merely seek out and incorporate healthy physical and emotional activities into my routine, with humor and delight – sharing with family and friends!

And don’t forget that we’re not alone on this planet ‘-)
http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_more_bloody_ivory/98.php?CLICK_TF_TRACK