Laughter yoga

November 25, 2008 by  
Filed under At Home, At Work, Natural Medicine

With so much doom and gloom around we need all the help we can get, and this wonderful therapy is based on something we all knew when we were children. When you laugh, you feel better but sadly although children laugh about 400 times a day that has been whittled down to a mere 15 times when we are all grown up.

Developed by Madan Kataria, a family physician from India, laughter yoga is not really about humour (or yoga), but rather exploits the natural human tendency to laugh when others laugh, so you initiate it and see who joins in. Try smiling generously when you greet someone and you will see it returned, expand a smile into a laugh and people will join in. You can feel inhibited, embarrassed or a complete loon – or you could just decide today is your day to have some fun because research shows that when a group of people forces laughter, it quickly transitions to real, spontaneous laughing.

It is also a great stress reliever and particularly works well for companies to create a positive work environment. Laughter Solutions devise Laughter Workshops, Training and Team Building sessions, and they point out the health benefits of some good hearty laughter. It will naturally increase oxygen levels in the body and releases endorphins from the brain cells, to promote a sense of well- being and raise existing energy levels.

If you are lucky enough to live in Ireland, then you have easy access to their services and they can of course travel to the UK to bring the gift of laughter to your company. Founded and run by Anne McDonald, a creative artist, coach and Laughter expert, I can’t recommend them highly enough. She certainly made me laugh – do wear waterproof mascara if you attend one of her workshops, or none at all if you don’t want to look like a panda from the tears running down your face. As two satisfied customers said, “It’s the most fun I have ever had in a business suit.” “I laughed till I cried and felt a million dollars afterward.”

You will find Anne McDonald at

Belly laughs and blood pressure

May 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Health, Lifestyle, Natural Medicine

When I was a child a day trip to Blackpool was a highlight of the summer holidays and my favourite thing was to go to the funfair and stand in front of an enormous machine called the Laughing Policeman.

You put your penny in the slot (it was a long time ago), and the large animated figure would rock back and forth consumed by laughter.

It was contagious: you couldn’t stand there, or be within six feet of it, without joining in. Evidently that was my first experience of knowing just what was good for me, and the foundation of my later career as a health writer! Now it seems that the Laughing Policeman’s inventor was a man who knew not just how to make people feel good, but was also unwittingly helping them lower their blood pressure too. Now a wonderful piece of research from India has shown that when 200 workers at an IT call-centre in Mumbai, India, were given 20-minute laugh-yoga sessions they had significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. I imagine that working in any call centre must be very stressful, and so this could be an ideal – and economic – way to increase the health of the workers. The study was reported by Dr Madan Kataria to the American Society of Hypertension and if you want to emulate it, then the laughter therapy involved breathing exercises along with laughter that starts as a gentle “hee, hee, hee” and builds to a raucous “ha, ha, ha.” Apparently it’s the full out belly laugh that really makes the difference. I can hear the voice of the Laughing Policeman echoing across the years in full agreement.

Of course you could always call in an expert, and I happen to know one. Anne McDonald actually follows the work of Dr Kataria and is based a little bit nearer to us in Dublin. She is a qualified ‘laughologist’ if you need one in your place of work and I can highly recommend her, though you may have a stitch in your side for several hours afterwards from being overcome by a strong case of hysterics. If you want to contact her, visit her website at for a wealth of delights, including her own artwork.