In March 1995, Dr. Madan
Kataria was writing an article ‘Laughter - The Best Medicine' for a health journal. In his research, he discovered many
modern scientific studies, that described in depth, the many proven benefits of Laughter on the Human mind and body. In particular,
Dr. Kataria was impressed by Norman Cousins' book Anatomy of an Illness and the research work by Dr. Lee Berk. Profoundly
inspired and being a man of action, Dr. Kataria immediately decided to field-test the impact of laughter on himself and others.
It all started with people.
Starting with just a handful of (5) persons, at 7 am on March
13, 1995, at a public park in his neighborhood in Mumbai, India; and managed to persuade four people to support him in launching
a ‘Laughter Club'. They laughed together in the park that day to the amusement of bystanders; and the small group quickly
grew to more than 50 participants, within a few days. In the initial meetings, they stood in a circle with one person in the
center, to tell a joke or a funny story. Everybody enjoyed and felt good for the rest of the day.
Two weeks later....
After two weeks,
the Laughter Club hit a snag. The stock of good jokes and stories ran out, and negative, hurtful and naughty jokes started
to emerge. Two offended participants complained that it would be better to discontinue the Club than to continue with such
jokes. Dr. Kataria asked the Club members to give him just one day to develop a ‘breakthrough' that would resolve the
That night, Dr. Kataria reviewed his
research and finally found the answer he was looking for: Our body cannot differentiate between pretend and genuine laughter.
Both produced the same ‘Happy Chemistry'. The next morning he explained this to the group, and asked them to try to
act out laughter with him, for one minute. Amid skepticism they agreed to try.... The results were amazing. For some, the
pretend laughter quickly turned into real laughter - this was contagious and in no time others followed. Soon the group was
laughing like never before. The hearty laughter that followed persisted for almost ten minutes. This breakthrough was the
birth of Laughter Yoga.
Then laughter exercises emerged and the rest is history.
there are ways other than humor to stimulate laughter, Dr. Kataria developed a range of Laughter Exercises including elements
of role-play and other techniques from his days as an amateur theater actor. Giving a thought to the importance of childlike
playfulness, he developed further techniques to stimulate this within the group.
As Yoga practitioners, Dr. Kataria and his wife Madhuri, Co-Founder of Laughter Yoga,
saw the similarities between Laughter and Pranayama exercises, and incorporated elements from this ancient form of Yoga into
Laughter Yoga, including the deep breathing exercises now used between Laughter Exercises, to deepen the impact.
The result - Laughter Yoga: A blend of Yogic Deep Breathing,
Stretching, and Laughter Exercises that cultivate child-like playfulness.