The History of Laughter Yoga and How I Became Involved

The History of Laughter Yoga and How I Became Involved

Hello there,

Recently I received an enquiry to facilitate a Laughter Yoga session from a primary school teacher of grades 5-6. She went on to ask me to share a few words about how I both became involved in Laughter Yoga and the history of the laughter club movement. It seemed like a good idea to expand a little in a blog post and hopefully this is of interest to you.

The year was 1995 when it all began, the origin of the Laughter Yoga Community Clubs, who practice ‘laughing for no reason’ all around the world. Indian Physician, Dr Madan Kataria was impressed by Norman Cousins’ book Anatomy of an Illness and the research work by Dr Lee Berk on the benefits of laughter to one’s health and wellbeing. Madan decided to field-test the impact of laughter upon himself and others, gathering with four friends in a Mumbai public park.

This happy little group had many bystanders, who quickly joined in and numbered over 50 after a couple of weeks. BUT, around that time it was discovered that either the jokes and humour ran out or became offensive. Dr Kataria went home to ponder if there could be a resolution. Otherwise he felt that trying to laugh together on a regular basis would simply not work long term.

Upon reviewing the research, there was a light-bulb moment! It was around the fact that the body cannot differentiate between pretend and genuine laughter, because both produce the same happy chemistry. Participants were amazed, the make-believe laughter quickly turned into real laughter that was contagious. Realising there were other ways to experience laughter than through humour, the group switched to role-play and other techniques to stimulate the importance of child-like playfulness.

That was 23 years ago, the first laughter club was born and as the saying goes, the rest is history. There are currently thousands of laughter clubs in over 100 countries around the world.

For myself 13 years ago in 2005, I saw people laughing loudly together on TV as a social activity and then heard that ‘the laughter guru’ was coming to Melbourne to present a Laughter Yoga workshop. I went along, met with Dr Kataria and was so impressed by how fantastic I felt, I straight away committed to doing the laughter club training and immediately thereafter started a laughter club.

My personal reasons were that as a young girl, adults seemed serious, stressed, upset and fearful, as if they had lost hope and life was a burden. From that awareness, I unconsciously chose to be young at heart and not let life beat me down. I kept it up as good as I could, to not get stressed out over work and adult issues. Sometimes people said I was like Peter Pan who was youthful, happy and an inspired person, living with faith and hope for the future, enjoying each day, one day at a time. Mind you, now I understand there is more to it than the simplified version of my earlier life, which was quite ungrounded. That was in part replaced as I learnt to stop judging unpleasant feelings and be authentic. Feelings are to be celebrated and not supressed, which is vastly different from the earlier me. Nevertheless, that is the story in a nutshell, as to why I was drawn to Laughter Yoga.

Cheerio for now, Lots of love and laughter, Lynette Mitchell xo

Disclaimer: Information shared here is intended to be supportive and from my personal understanding and experience. Advice given is general and as I am not a medical doctor, take no responsibility for how it is received

Feel the Fear and Stretch Yourself

I love to stretch myself and move beyond fear and have two awesome mentors who assist me to do that. In order to grow, we all could benefit and move to far greater heights with a mentor or role model and I honour Caren Hendrie, my business mentor who suggested I begin with the following paragraph, instead of finishing with it, as you are the ones who will find that approach more interesting. Thanks Caz!

Yay! It’s great to feel the fear, get comfortable with change, learn and practice new things. Learn some more. Make time for family and friends. Love oneself. There is so much that we can do in our bodies both for ourselves and to help and inspire other people.

I am over saving people. How many people and I feel, in particular women, like to save people, to put themselves down, others first, want to help and in fact often when we do that, we are actually being arrogant and we disempower those people whom we are trying so hard to help. Teach a man how to fish, that is what I say. And that is from a recovering control freak.

I love the Mind Body Spirit Festival. Each year I have the opportunity to share laughter with the Melbourne public and each time it is different. It is held in a big exhibition building lovingly called ‘Jeff’s Shed’ after the Premier of Victoria who was behind it being built. It is a huge building. Here is the link to it: http://www.mbsfestival.com.au/index.htm.

What I love about presenting laughter is it gives me an opportunity to relate with people and practice being myself, being unique and authentic. I started to lead a laughter club seven years ago after doing the leader training with Phillipa Challis, who was the founder of laughter clubs in Victoria. Phillipa is a great ambassador for the laughter movement and has not missed being present at her laughter club in Geelong, which is west of Melbourne, an hour away by car, since she started it, which I believe is about 10 years ago. Phillipa has been a great personal support for me also, encouraging me to keep on in the early days when I felt discouraged. Thank you Pip.

Back to the MBS as it is called. My husband John and I went in together and led the laughter on the main stage on both Friday and Sunday. Frankly it was a bit early at 11.30am and other laughter leaders could not make it in time after leading their own community laughter clubs. I tip my hat to all the community laughter club leaders of Melbourne and beyond, who do the service of bringing laughter into the community with such open and loving hearts.

On Friday a most unfortunate thing happened, we were 20 minutes late, due to train delays. Apparently a train before us had run off the track and we were shuffled off on to buses in between stations. Nevertheless, it was an excellent laughter session, we were given extra time and although it was only a 15 minute session, people in the audience all joined in and we had lots of fun doing it too. John’s favourites which he usually leads are the Archer and the Milkshake laugh. He is gorgeous as you can see in the photos, laughter has been good to him also and I have found that people involved in laughter yoga are more connected with their hearts and certainly do, as I heard the good doctor say on TV, ‘carry the spirit of laughter with them’.

Sunday we drove the car in and I was a little nervous after being held up on the Friday, in case something happened on the road, as sometimes happens. Well, I need not have worried, we were early and off we went at the appropriate time again.

I decided to read out the blurb that the wonderful Sebastien Gendry has shared about laughter, which we use on the Laughter Clubs Victoria Inc website and with a couple of slight changes, I use on my Ferntree Gully Laughter Club flyer as follows: ‘Laughter Yoga is a powerful healing modality that is simple, fun and filled with laughter that works simultaneously on the body, mind and spirit. No particular equipment is required. All can practice and benefit. It’s a form of exercise where we choose to laugh, because we can and this is done without jokes or comedy. The benefits of laughter are scientifically documented. It’s a practice that follows a systematic activity approach that guarantees fun and success to all, every time.’

I have not read something out like that before and felt inspired to do so, which may give the audience a different take on it rather than watching and joining in alone. After inviting people to come up on stage, we were pleasantly surprised that six people came up, three young boys, a couple of teenage girls and a lady. I was personally quite thrilled how most of the audience, which was only about twenty strong, joined in with the exercises. Some stood up, moving around and at times I caught the eyes and attention of people walking past and they also responded. A little trick that I find works too is that if we have the intention of being connected, we are. In fact, our energy is connected, as our hearts link. That is a very nice experience. Some people were sitting alone and I got their attention and did for instance, a High 5 in the air towards them, as they did back to me. All we needed was eye contact and a little loving smile.

I love too that practicing laughter more over the years makes me quite un-self conscious. That has been a big one and I am not completely there yet, originally I was afraid of public speaking and felt motivated to – as Susan Jeffers says ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. I am always preaching to people about how much we are benefited by getting out of our comfort zone and stretching ourselves. Otherwise, how can we grow? We stagnate, stay the same or perhaps even, if we are standing still, go backwards. I trust that you have enjoyed the sharing and will choose to do something different today, tomorrow, this week. Believe in yourself and that it is worth the effort, as it is said, ‘there is no gain without pain’.

That is enough from me.

Lots of love, blessings and laughter hugs.

Lynette Mitchell xxx ooo

Husband John sharing a laugh with the people of Melbourne.

Me doing the Archer laugh.

Me doing the Archer laugh.