Diversions

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

There's funny ha-ha, and then there's funny Hatha or yoga. Laughter yoga was invented in India. This day it's busting out all over. According to its followers, it brings both happiness and health.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports on the practice from Seaside, California.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Here along the beautiful shores of Laguna Beach, eight adults are laughing hysterically.

(Soundbite of laughter)

At times they sound like the seagulls hovering nearby, or kooky lunatics. And sometimes, they look rather ridiculous, sticking their tongues out like goofy lions. These are some of the feel-good exercises group leader Jeffrey Briar leads to get the Laguna Laughter Club in the mood every morning.

Mr. JEFFREY BRIAR (Founder, Laguna Laughter Club): Ho,ho, ha-ha-ha is a variation on a yoga breathing technique called Kapalabhati, where you are cleaning out your brain. It's called skull-shining breath, where you do a rapid expiration, blowing the breath out while your abdomen goes in. Sorry. It goes like this, goes in through the nose. So we're doing it -

DEL BARCO: You're getting my mike all dirty.

Mr. BRIAR: Goobers. That will be on the radio, will it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DEL BARCO: People around here don't seem to be too fazed by you guys laughing on the beach.

Ms. KATHY BURNS (Laguna Laughter Club): At first they were - we got - had some people give us some crazy looks sometimes. Once, there was this kind of fringy, homeless-looking guy and he was looking at us, and he said, you guys are crazier than bedbugs. And we laughed and laughed and laughed at him. He thought he was trying to insult us, and we just laughed.

Mr. Briar: Very good, very good. Yehey. One more time.

DEL BARCO: This is not the kind of crazy California fad. It actually started back in India, 15 years ago.

(Soundbite of music)

Dr. MADAN KATARIA: Laughter the best medicine, always used to (unintelligible) me from Reader's Digest.

DEL BARCO: Dr. Madan Kataria have told film maker (unintelligible) that laughing regularly helps boost the immune system, lowers blood pressure and lifts depression. In another documentary, Kataria said he came up with the idea of free public laughing clubs by telling jokes with his friends in Mumbai.

Dr. KATARIA: I told them this is not a laughing matter. It's a very serious thing that we have forgotten to laugh. There's no laughter, there's no life. In effect please do laugh (unintelligible).

DEL BARCO: Kataria went on tour as a sort of laughter evangelist. Now, there an estimated 5,000 laughing clubs in 53 countries, throughout India, Europe, and of course, in Southern California.

Dr. KATARIA: Next, we're going to take a laughter cocktail to put us in a viable mood.

DEL BARCO: At a yoga studio in Pasadena, a dozen people follow Kataria's example every Friday night with silly improvisations.

Dr. KATARIA: So take hold two imaginary glasses, we try to mix and we go eh(ph)

Unidentified Group: Eh, eh, eh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEBASTIEN GENDRY (Founder, American School of Laughter Yoga): Laughing for no reason is not rocket science. You have to trust. You have to be here now and be willing to play.

DEL BARCO: Sebastien Gendry leads the American School of Laughter Yoga. He says even forced laughter soon becomes real.

Mr. GENDRY: You do not have to have a sense of humor to laugh. You don't have to be happy to laugh. You don't have to have any reason to laugh. Faking it leads to making it. Motions create emotions. When you act happy, you create the chemistry of happiness.

DEL BARCO: Some of the laughter club members say they no longer catch colds easily, and it helps them get through everything from the L.A. traffic to rectal cancer. Back in Laguna Beach, after chuckling, snickering, yodeling, chortling, and giggling, loosening for an hour, the laughter club members are lying down on the sand to meditate.

Mr. BRIAR: Place the hands over the heart and close the eyes. The ultimate goal of this work is that there'll be peace on the earth.

DEL BARCO: A message from the Laguna Laughter Club.

Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News, Laguna Beach.

Mr. BRIAR: For Mandalit, let's do a very good yeah!

Laguna Laughter Club: Very good, very good, yeah!

Mr. BRIAR: One more time.

Laguna Laughter Club: Very good, very good, yeah!.

Mr. BRIAR: For NPR.

Laguna Laughter Club: Very good, very good, yeah!.

Mr. BRIAR: One more time.

Laguna Laughter Club: Very good, very good, yeah!.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from