Science Interviews


Fri, 26th Jul 2013

Visiting a Laughter Clinic

Miss Zoe Harris, Yoga Laughter Clinic

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Tickling your brain: why do we laugh?

Quite a few of you got in touch, asking about fake versus real laughter and the contagious power of giggles.  In order to investigate this, I visited a yogic laughter clinic, hosted under a chestnut tree on a lush green in Cambridge.  I spoke with Zoe Harris who hosts the sessions to find out why clinics like these are proving so popular.

Zoe -   So, laughter yoga was invented by Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995 in India.  Yoga Laughter ClinicHis philosophy behind it was, as a medical doctor, he wanted his patients to improve psychologically, but without the use of drugs.  So, he found an article about how laughter, even fake laughter could trick the brain into feeling more happy.  And so, he researched this a bit and he started trying to get this group together in the park and they met and they told jokes to each other, and they had a bit of fun for a few weeks then the tricks got out of hand, got a bit inappropriate.  And so, he developed a series of exercises that would just help promote laughter.  And so, even if you don’t feel like laughing, you join in and the brain will follow eventually and you release all the happy hormones, all the endorphins that oxygenate the blood and it just helps you feel very positive and enlightened person.  And so, his wife was a yoga instructor and so, that's where the yogic part comes in because he combines the laughter with pranayama – so, breath of life.  Some deep breathing exercises to also calm the mind as well as oxygenating the body as well.  So today, we’ll just be doing a series of exercises.  So, no previous experience required.  Just follow what we do.

Hannah -   And Zoe started the clinic by asking us to laugh loudly from the belly to the skies.  Here’s what happened.  [laughter].  

We were asked to laugh at all four points in the compass and by the time we’d reach the west, it was like a pack of hyenas had hit the park.  

You might be able to pick out my cackling contagiously and uncontrollably amongst the crowd. [laughter].  

Worryingly, it also sounds a little bit like wailing.  [laughter]  



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