Friday, May 5, 2000

He who laughs last, lives longest. Laughter clubs, first set up in India five years ago, are to be introduced in Britain as a way of keeping healthy.
Members gather in parks and gardens to guffaw together before work as a way of lowering blood pressure, easing asthma and even reducing snoring.
The first club, established by a deadpan Bombay doctor, has spawned another 150 on the subcontinent. Now Dr. Madan Kataria, dubbed “the Merry Medicine Man,” has been invited to the United Kingdom to train Britain’s “giggling gurus.”
A businesswoman in Gloucestershire, southwest England, has asked him to stay for four days this month to impart his wisdom so that laughter clubs can be set up here.
In India, hundreds of people gather in the open air, limber up with breathing exercises, progress to a “Ho ho ho, ha ha ha” chant before throwing themselves into chuckling.
Different laughs or giggles are taught to relax separate parts of the body, and all have special names such as hearty, silent, lion, swinging and cocktail laughs.
Dr. Kataria claims that the “yogic” technique can lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, alleviate bronchitis and asthma, reduce snoring and improve one’s sense of well-being.
Jag Ghuman, an Indian businesswoman who now lives in Cheltenham, met Dr. Kataria on a business trip in Bombay and as a self-confessed laughter-lover was inspired by his ideas.
Pat Hubbard, who runs the Natural Therapies Center in Stroud, Gloucestershire, and is a close friend, agreed that it was a perfect stress-reliever even for the self-restrained British.
Dr. Kataria, a private physician with a clinic in Bombay, set up the company Laughter Club International after years of observing how his patients’ immune systems improved following bouts of laughter.
In 1998, he organized a World Laughter Day at the Bombay racetrack and 10,000 people turned up. American research has reinforced his views. Scientists acknowledge that laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

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