In March 1995 Dr. Madan Kataria, a family physician from Mumbai, India, decided to write an article called “Laughter – the best medicine” for his monthly health magazine “My Family Doctor”. The outcome of his research for this article surprised him greatly. Decades of scientific research had already proven that laughter has both a substantial preventive and therapeutic effect.
In particular he was impressed by the findings of Norman Cousins, an American journalist was was diagnosed in 1964 with a degenerative disease and given at best 6 months to live, yet he managed to heal himself completely using laughter as his main form of therapy. Norman Cousins died in 1991.
Dr. Kataria woke up on March 13th, 1995, with what he thought was a great idea: he would start a laughter club. At 7 am he went to his local park and somehow managed to motivate four people to laugh with him. This small group quickly grew to over 50 participants within a few days. The format was the turn-by-turn telling of jokes or anecdotes.
Within days the stock of good jokes was depleted and participants complained. They did not want to listen and even less take part in the telling of stale or vulgar jokes.
Rather than abort the experiment Dr. Kataria had the idea of dropping jokes altogether. What he had observed was that when the joke or anecdote being told was not funny, one person laughing was usually enough to get the whole group to laugh: laughter is contagious. He experimented with this idea of laughing for no reason and it worked very well.
The brain cannot distinguish self-induced laughter from the laughter from external stimuli, and what to some may seem like a silly and artificial beginning almost always leads into a natural euphoric state of hearty laughter.
His wife Madhuri Kataria, a Hatha Yoga teacher, helped build upon the yoga connection of laughter. Together they designed a sequence of simple laughter exercises with gentle yoga breathing exercise (Pranayama) for maximum benefits.
A journalist heard of this unusual club and wrote an article about it in the local newspaper. Inspired people started to come to Dr. Kataria for advice on how to start their own “Laughter Clubs”. Everything else is history.
DR MADAN KATARIA AND STEVE WILSON
Since its humble beginnings in 1995, this unique idea has grown into a worldwide movement of many thousands of Laughter Clubs all over the world. Laughter Yoga and Laughter Clubs have been featured in every single major media network around the world (press, radio, television). Laughter Yoga is currently referred to as the “latest exercise craze to hit the United States of America”.