Sunday, 27 August 2006

Laugh a day keeps the doctor away

August 27, 2006

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: For the health conscious Hyderabadis, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is no longer the magic mantra. This age-old proverb has just metamorphosed for the stress-ridden Hyderabadis, who now believe that "laugh a day keeps the doctor away".
No wonder then that the number of laughter clubs in twin cities has doubled in just a couple of years. And the number is growing fast with new clubs added to the list every month as more and more people are turning to "laughter therapy" or "Hasya Yoga". The city has a couple of Hasya Yoga centres where chronic health problems are simply "laughed out" without the prescription of any conventional medicines.
Says Dr Sriranga Lakshmi, consultant neurologist at Apollo Hospitals, DRDO, "when one laughs the neuro transmitters get activated and when these are activated one overcomes depression. The work efficiency goes up. Moreover, laughing also leads to our facial muscles and the whole body being exercised resulting in burning of body calories".
One minute of a good bout of laugh is equivalent to 10 minutes of jogging. "All one has to do is a hearty laugh, just smiling and giggling will not help", says OA Seth, secretary of Hasya Yoga Club, KBR Park.
Seth points out that laughter therapy beats stress effectively and solves health problems like high blood pressure, heart ailments, depression, cough and cold, peptic ulcers, insomnia, allergies, asthma and migraine and even cancer-related stress.
Shirin Panjwani, who runs a "laughter clinic", gives examples of two persons recovering from severe health problems through simple laughing techniques. Stating that "laughter is inner jogging", Shirin recalls how one Shyamala Reddy got rid of chronic sinus problem within six months of taking to laughter therapy.
"After all conventional medicines failed to give relief, Shymala Reddy underwent laughter therapy. Within three months she set aside all her woollen clothes she used to wear to keep herself warm to reduce sinus problem. And within six months she got rid of the problem. Another person, an officer in LIC, had his facial texture improved within a month of joining the laughter club. All the wrinkles on his forehead vanished in no time," she observes.
Hasya yoga or laughter therapy is a 5000 year old Indian tradition that modern-day Indians have forgotten to utilise for their benefits. As the A Japanese proverb says, "time spent in laughter is time spent with God", but the Indian ancient texts have emphasised the importance of laughter in one's life thousands of years before the Japanese learnt to employ the technique.
Laughing leads to release of endorthins from different parts of the body, brain etc. These help in dilation of the blood vessels and improved blood circulation resulting in good health, according to Dr Suchi Madhusudan, consultant endocrinologist.
Dr Madan Kataria, who is known as the "Hasya Yoga Guru" and runs a website extolling the importance of laughter therapy, argues that since more than 70 per cent of illnesses have some relation to stress, laughter is the best medicine to treat mind-related diseases.
Laughter reduces the release of stress related hormones and aids in relaxation. "Our studies have shown that people suffering from a variety of diseases have benefited in some way or the other. There is a 10-20 mm drop in blood pressure after a 10 minute laughter session. The daily guffaws strengthen the immune system of the body by helping to increase the count of natural killer lymphocytes and raise the antibody levels. The antibodies in the mucous membranes of the nose and respiratory passages increase after laughter therapy," according to Dr Kataria.
A typical laughter yoga session in city parks, mainly KBR and Indira parks, lasts between 20 and 30 minutes as too much of laughter is also bad for health.
World-wide there are 3000 laughter clubs and of them Mumbai has 90 and Bangalore 78. With new laughter clubs coming up in the city, Hyderabad is all set to beat Mumbai and Bangalore when it comes having a "hearty laugh".

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