John Cleese Explores the Health Benefits of Laughter

If you live in a big city like Los Ange­les or San Fran­cis­co, you’ll dis­cov­er that there are just a bewil­der­ing vari­ety of yoga styles out there — there’s Ash­tan­ga Yoga if you want a real work out, there’s Yin Yoga if you want to chill out and there’s Bikram Hot Yoga if you want heat stroke. Add to this list Laugh­ter Yoga. Yes, Laugh­ter Yoga.

For a seg­ment of the 2001 BBC series The Human Face, John Cleese, a man who knows some­thing about laugh­ter, ven­tured to Mum­bai, India to see what Laugh­ter Yoga is all about. He inter­views the man behind it all, Dr. Madan Kataria, who argues that laugh­ter is bril­liant at low­er­ing stress and improv­ing the immune sys­tem. And best of all, you don’t even need mats or unflat­ter­ing pants to do it. You just need a group of like-mind­ed peo­ple and a will­ing­ness to look sil­ly. In the video, which you can see above, Cleese yuks it up with a group of Mum­bai locals.

“We all know what a good laugh feels like,” he tells the cam­era. “But what struck me was how easy it was to get start­ed. When you have a lot of warm, friend­ly, fun­ny faces com­ing at you, you respond very naturally…I’m struck by how laugh­ter con­nects you to peo­ple. It’s almost impos­si­ble to main­tain any kind of dis­tance or any sense of social hier­ar­chy when you’re just howl­ing with laugh­ter. Laugh­ter is a force for democ­ra­cy”

Appar­ent­ly, you don’t even have to be in an espe­cial­ly jol­ly mood to reap the health ben­e­fits of Laugh­ter Yoga. Forced laugh­ter tricks the body into releas­ing endor­phins too. In Laugh­ter Yoga, as with life, the mot­to is “fake it til you make it.”

So if you are inter­est­ed in laugh­ing like a mad­man in the pri­va­cy of your own home, Dr. Kataria has an instruc­tion­al video for you, which you can see right above. There are a sur­pris­ing num­ber of laugh­ing exer­cis­es avail­able — from the milk­shake move, where you pan­tomime guz­zling a drink, to the argu­ment laugh­ter, where you wag a fin­ger, to the Visa laugh­ter where you pre­tend to laugh through the tears as you open your cred­it card state­ment. So go ahead and try it. You’ll feel bet­ter.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Yoga in an X‑Ray Machine

John Cleese’s Phi­los­o­phy of Cre­ativ­i­ty: Cre­at­ing Oases for Child­like Play

Son­ny Rollins Describes How 50 Years of Prac­tic­ing Yoga Made Him a Bet­ter Musi­cian

Free Guid­ed Med­i­ta­tions From UCLA: Boost Your Aware­ness & Ease Your Stress

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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