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Laughter, an exercise

Members of the Laughter Club don't merely laugh and clap; in the process, they help their bodies release stress-relieving hormones, which help alleviate pain naturally...

A MOTLEY bunch of people meets every morning at the Marina to laugh and make merry. Curious bystanders wonder why a group of perfectly normal-looking people are laughing without reason. A few even pass comments questioning their sanity. The group does not seem to mind. After all, many of them did the same thing before they became members of the Laughter Club.

At around 6 a.m. the members assemble near the Gandhi statue, some fresh from their jog on the beach. After a few warm-ups, they start their day's regimen to the tune of "Ho! Ho! Ha! Ha! Ha!" led by Manohar Bokdia. Some of the members start a little consciously, but loosen up as the exercises, which blend yoga and laughter, progress and participate whole-heartedly.

The members don't merely laugh and clap; in the process they help their bodies release endorphins, the stress-relieving hormones, which naturally help alleviate pain and promote a feeling of euphoria. Doctors agree. Says Dr.G.Shankar, a member of the club: "Even if people laugh without actually feeling elated, it helps release endorphins. Take me, for instance. A couple of years ago, I suffered a coronary heart disease and was in the ICCU for some time. Eight months later, I participated in my office sports day and came first in long jump and relay race. That was due to laughter therapy."

The exercises are so designed that they also improve inter-personal relationships. Members, who first confined their camaraderie to the beach, now meet outside at family gatherings. And, they are also into social work Many feel starting the day with laughter leaves them feeling good through the day. Asks Janaki Vancheeshwaran, retired bank employee and in the club: "Tell me, in this tension-filled world, how many people get the chance to laugh this way? The morning's laughter turns into a smile that stays on our faces long into the day."

Similar clubs exist in other pockets in Chennai. Depending on the location, the profile of the members changes.

The exercises are interesting too. For instance, the Lion Laughter and Forgiveness Laughter. In the former, people growlingly laugh even as they exercise while the latter sees the members laughing as they execute "thoppukaranams".

Interacting with the members gives you some idea of the beneficial properties of laughter. Says Kannan, he used to suffer from a stiff neck or spondilitis and could not move freely for 20-odd years. "Before I joined the club, life was a misery. A couple of months later, I felt better. Laughing without reason is difficult, yes, but one gets used to it."

Others speak of how their asthma, rheumatism and arthritis were kept under check after a dose of laughter therapy. A tale that warms the cockles of heart is of Jayavelu who could not breathe easily and was told by a leading corporate hospital that he had to undergo a heart surgery immediately. He now has no breathlessness and can walk comfortably. "This club has given me a second lease of life," he states.


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