10 Apr 2007 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 1 Comment.
I vaguely remember a scene in the movie Mary Poppins where Uncle Albert gets stuck on the ceiling of his sitting room, buoyed upwards by uncontainable glee. Uncle Albert, it seems, was given to fits of laughter that literally lifted his spirits–-along with the rest of him–-right off the floor.
A Bombay doctor named Madan Kataria has developed a form of laughter therapy called Hasya Yoga (hasya means laughter in Sanskrit) that combines deep, controlled breathing and stretches with various types of forced laughter. Like any serious master, he has founded his own Dharma center called Laughter Clubs International.
Kataria’s exploration of laughter therapy began in India with small groups of people who met regularly for morning walks. Pre-walk sessions began with a breathing exercise similar to intensive breathing exercises (pranayama), followed by a structured chanting of “ho ho, ha ha” that requires a rhythmic muscular movement of the abdomen much like the breath of fire, a traditional yogic breathing technique in which the practitioner rapidly inhales and exhales to clear the respiratory passages.
“This laughter practice,” explains Kataria, “moves progressively from the ho ho, ha ha exercise to other types of simulated laughter. It’s what I call my ‘laughter cocktail.'” Kataria’s “cocktail includes hearty laughter, greeting laughter, open-mouthed silent laughter, humming laughter, lion laughter (an adaptation of Lion Pose), and swinging laughter, with arm movement. Each laughter is sustained for up to 45 seconds, and followed with deep breathing and stretching exercises.
The laughter exercises are designed to be done together, with participants progressing from one type of chuckle to another in the company of others. Says Kataria: “Laughter in laughter clubs is the purest laughter because it is not for any reason. It is not directed at others but we learn to laugh at ourselves.”
I can only laugh to think that, after all, laughter is the best medicine– as the holy scripture known in America as Reader’s Digest has been telling us for half a century.