On Wednesday, January 3, 2007, Lansing will make history by holding the first Laughter Club meeting in Iowa. That’s right: a Laughter Club.
Just what is a “Laughter Club”? Well, it all began in 1995 when Dr. Madan Kataria, a family physician from India, decided to write an article called "Laughter: The Best Medicine" for a monthly health magazine. His research led him to discover an overwhelming body of scientific literature that described the proven benefits of laughter on the human mind and body. In particular he was very impressed by American journalist Norman Cousins' book "Anatomy of an Illness" and the research undertaken by Dr. Berk from Loma Linda University. Profoundly inspired and being a man of action rather than an academic, he immediately decided to field-test the impact of laughter on himself.
The next morning, he went to his local public park and somehow managed to motivate four people to start a “Laughter Club” with him. This small group quickly grew to over 50 participants within a few days.
In the beginning, everybody stood in a circle while one person would come to the center and crack a joke or tell a humorous anecdote. Everybody enjoyed the fun and felt fabulous for the rest of the day. After about two weeks, however, the stock of good jokes ran out and the sexist and off-color jokes came up. Two women were offended and complained. It became clear that an alternative to jokes had to be found if this "Laughter Club" was to survive. He told everyone to come back the next day and he would have a new method for them to try.
That evening, Dr Kataria reread all of the scientific research he had on laughter and found the answer he was looking for: the human mind doesn't know how to make a distinction between fake and genuine laughter. Either way it produces happy chemistry. And so the concept of laughing for no reason was born. His wife, Madhuri, brought in her experience as a yoga teacher and suggested gentle yoga breathing be included in the routine to deepen the impact. Thus, they invented a method they named “Laughter Yoga”.
What started with just five people in 1995, has grown into a worldwide movement with more than 5,000 clubs. Laughter Yoga clubs have been covered by prestigious television channels like BBC, CNN, ABC and in magazines like National Geographic, New York Times, London Times, The Wall Street Journal and many others.
Pastor Laura Gentry of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lansing began to research more about the Laughter Club movement and got enthusiastic about the proven preventive and therapeutic values.
Laughter helps us keep healthy by enriching the blood with ample supplies of oxygen, the lifeline of our systems. By controlled and deep breathing, we can enhance our well-being. The half-hour session of breathing and laughing offered by a Laughter Club causes participants to carry home the healthy habit of deep breathing. This helps to increase the lung capacity, thus enhancing oxygen supply to the body.
Laughter helps to remove the negative effects of stress, which is the number one killer today. More than 70% of illnesses like high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, frequent coughs and colds, peptic ulcers, insomnia, allergies, asthma, tension headaches, stomach upsets and even cancer, have some connection to stress.
Laughter helps to boost the immune system, which is the master key for maintaining good health.
Other benefits of laughter include:
• Controlling high blood pressure and heart disease by reducing the release of stress-related hormones and bringing relaxation
• Increasing stamina through increased oxygen supply
• Alleviating pain and giving a sense of well being by releasing endorphins, the body’s painkiller hormones.
• Reducing the affects of depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders because laughter boosts the production of serotonin, a natural antidepressant
• Giving an excellent internal massage to the digestive tract and enhancing blood supply to important internal organs like the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and adrenal glands
• Aiding sleep and reducing snoring because laughter is very good for the muscles of the soft palate and throat
• Bringing a happy glow to your face and making your eyes shine with a thin film of tears which are squeezed from the lachrymal sacs during the act of laughter
After learning all this, Pastor Gentry decided a Laughter Club would be a wonderful ministry to offer the Lansing community. The council of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church agreed and sent Gentry to California during Thanksgiving weekend to become trained as a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader.
According to the Laughter Yoga website: www.laughteryoga.us, Lansing’s Laughter Club will be the first Laughter Club in Iowa.
Now just what does a Laughter Club session entail? It is physically-oriented technique that uses a perfect blend of playful, empowering and otherwise "tension-releasing" simple laughter exercises, interspersed with gentle breathing, warm up and stretching exercises, rhythmic clapping and chanting of “Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha” in unison. These exercises are done as a way to improve health, increase well-being, and promote peace in the world through personal transformation. In Laughter Yoga we use laughter as a tool—not an emotion—so you don’t have to be happy or have a sense of humor to benefit from laughter. And it is a physical workout, which is why the sessions are just thirty minutes long.
Beginning this week, Pastor Laura Gentry will lead Lansing Laughter Club meetings each Wednesday night from 6:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 480 Diagonal Street in Lansing. These meetings will be free and open to the public. Everyone is invited to boost their health and happiness by laughing along!
Read more about our Laughter Club at our homepage.
Read more about Laughter Yoga at Pastor Laura's Laughter Site.