One would think there was a lot of merriment at the April 3, 2011 meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club at Amari’s Tavern by the Sea Restaurant from the loud laughter spreading out onto Beach Road. But, was it real or faked? Does the body know the difference? Why was everybody laughing?
It was because the Club’s guest speaker Sam (Sukhbir Singh Sethi) was telling everyone about laughter clubs and the benefits to be derived from “laughter yoga.” Sam said laughter yoga started in India when Dr. Madan Kataria, an Indian physician from Mumbai, started the first laughter club in a park in March of 1995, with just 5 people in attendance. Today, he said, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 6,000 social laughter clubs in 60 countries. Laughter yoga combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (Pranayama).
A little audience participation, and soon the Tavern by the Sea was rolling with laughter. Sam says, “The ultimate objective is to bring good health, joy and world peace through laughter.”
Sam said that anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group but with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter.
This guy’s a hoot! And he didn’t even have to crack any Caucasian jokes! Sukhbir Singh Sethi (otherwise known as Sam) told PCEC members about laughter clubs, and the benefits to be derived from “laughter yoga.”
The concept of laughter yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. He said that one gets the same physiological and psychological benefits whether real or faked. The ultimate objective is to bring good health, joy and world peace through laughter.
Laughter is universal with no language and cultural barriers. Laughter yoga clubs are fast developing into a worldwide community of like-minded people who believe in unconditional love, laughter and fellowship.
A further benefit is it reduces stress. Clinical research on laughter yoga methods conducted at the University of Graz in Austria, in Bangalore (India) as well as in the United States has shown that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc.) in the blood. It fosters a positive and hopeful attitude. One is less likely to succumb to stress and feelings of depression and helplessness if one is able to laugh away their troubles.
Laughter yoga is beneficial to all groups and in all circumstances. It is being used by businesses, by cancer hospitals, and even by prisons. Sam said that one minute of hearty laughter burns the same number of calories as one hour of physical exercise.
MC Roger Fox updates all on coming activities for Pattaya, and concludes with the usual warnings for Songkran.
At this point, Sam invited everyone to join him in a series of exercises and not to be shy, but to join in. Several joined Sam in the front and others formed groups around the room. He started by having everyone clap to a rhythm and while doing the clapping to say out loud in the same rhythm, “ho ho ha ha ha.” This was followed by a breathing exercise where everyone raised their arms – breathing in, and then lowered them – breathing out.
This was repeated several times then followed with Sam asking everyone to greet their neighbor as they would normally such as by shaking hands. But, at the same time, they were to laugh out loud. With this beginning, Sam followed with several similar exercises involving going through certain motions while laughing out loud such as making a milk shake or talking on a mobile telephone.
The exercises were periodically interrupted to perform the breathing exercises. The loud laughter came to an end when Sam asked everyone to sit down, close their eyes, and concentrate on a part of their body and then follow a path through other parts. Upon conclusion of this meditation, everyone agreed that it was quite an experience and they did feel better.
Master of Ceremonies Roger Fox then updated everyone on upcoming events and called on David Meador to conduct the Open Forum, which is always informative and often humorous; where questions are asked and answered about living in Thailand, Pattaya in particular.