Usuff Laughs On Today 104.1FM
Well done 104.1FM’s Kyle and Jackie for giving laughter yoga a test run. I was invited into their studios on January 25th 2012 to give a ten minute sample of laughter yoga. The venue wasn’t the best location for the session as movement was constricted, with sound equipment and monitors taking up much of the room. Also, the participants were different from my usual Sunday class in that here there was a “make me laugh” feel in the air. As if the gauntlet was thrown and it was a challenge. Whereas in my Sunday class, participants usually come along wanting to laugh, to let it out.
Things did get moving, though. Kyle, Jackie and about ten other staff were present. All brave souls who were willing to try “laughter yoga”. Kyle gave it a good shot. He was the one who tried the hardest, searching for the laughter elixir.
Some have asked me whether I was nervous in going in to the radio studio of one of Australia’s top radio station, to have a laugh with high profile celebrities. Well, it was daunting, but then I laughed about it. It was funny, what I was doing. Going in to laugh with radio personalities. Even thinking about it now makes me smile.
I did lose Kyle, though. And that wound down the laughing for the group. My fault entirely. I rushed the laughter process, being mindful of the ten minute timeframe I was given. I used two harder laughs, the aloha laugh and the monkey laugh, which didn’t vibrate hilarity. And the laughter lost steam. [I believe each "laugh" has it's own energetic quality which should resonate with the laughter leader, who then can pass it on to the participants.] Nevertheless, the video above captures the moment when laughter kicked in. To those who doubt laughter yoga works, here’s a flicker of evidence that says there just might be something in it. I feel the art and science of “laughter yoga” is still in it’s infancy and is very undeveloped. My personal opinion only. Which means when the principles are fully worked out in the years and decades ahead, it will be such a powerful vehicle in creating endorphin hits. The ones that leave you floating on cloud nine for the following few days.
Again, my thanks to Today 104.1FM for venturing out to boldy go where no major Sydney radio station has been before.
Frenchs Forest Laughter Club (2002 – 2012)
Frenchs Forest Laughter Club - Volunteer Laughter Leader Wanted
Frenchs Forest Laughter Club (also known as Forest Laughter Club) held it’s last session today, 28 January 2012. The Club is suspended for the time being, perhaps closed forever, until a new laughter leader(s) can be found. The current leaders of the club said overall numbers attending have been dwindling and the decision was made not to keep the club running every Saturday morning. However if there are any volunteer laughter leaders who want to take over running the club, they would be more than welcome to do so and the current leaders (Nichole, Cathy, Bev & Jenny) would give them support to get the club going again.
Judy, Sue and Honoré, the founders of Frenchs Forest Laughter Club, said the group started in early 2002. The club was well attended during the early years, with lots of media attention being given. The thought of a club where you go to laugh is, after all, funny. Frenchs Forest Laughter Club is probably the third laughter club to be created in Sydney (after Hunters Hill and Newtown, both started in May 2001) and also the Cronulla Laughter Club has been around a very long time. Around 2006 the running of the club was handed over to Nichole, Cathy, Bev and Jenny. The photo above shows Honoré, Judy and Sue. The founders of Forest Laughter Club in 2002.
Judy was there when I had my first introduction to laughter clubs in November 2002. I was pulled up on stage by Shirley Hicks to participate in a demonstration laughter club session at the Mind Body Spirit Festival at Darling Harbour. I had never participated at one before. Within a few minutes something was triggered inside me and I couldn’t stop laughing. Even when the session ended I wanted to keep on laughing. I remember following Judy off the stage and along the corridor, laughing. I remember the look on her face of “why is this laughing guy following me?” I wanted the laughter to continue, but stopped tailing her as I realized it was over. So disappointed was I, but now enthused about laughter clubs. I experienced a high from the laughter. So meeting up with Judy this morning at Frenchs Forest LC was a sentimental moment for me.
Bev explained to me that attending the laughter group has benefited her so much. Sometimes when she wasn’t in the mood, faking the laughs and going through the motions, would give her same benefits as if she really felt like laughing. She would get a boost. The style of the Frenchs Forest club was an energetic one. Laughs were thrown around from the word get go, and the sessions were very active, with members taking turns to lead a laugh each.
I also met Jim Murphy at Frenchs Forest last laughter session today. That’s me with Jim in the photo to the left. For many years, Jim has run the Laughter Club at the Balgowlah School for Seniors. He informed me that the group is closing too as Jim’s regular membership was also reducing; one of the members recently passed away at 105. Balgowlah Laughter Club has been around almost as long as the Frenchs Forest Club.
There are many factors that may be contributing to the decline in laughter clubs. Our busy lifestyles are probably a major reason. However, paradoxically the fast pace of life is even more reason to gain the real benefits from laughter. But many people don’t get the message that even fake laughter can give the same benefits as real laughing. And that acting exuberantly can create the feeling of exuberance. To many people, laughing publicly, albeit in a group, is socially challenging. It is the fear of looking stupid and it just isn’t for them. However, sometimes doing things outside one’s comfort zone can produce great rewards. Offsetting the loss of Frenchs Forest & Balgowlah laughter clubs are two new recently established clubs, Ashfield LC and Lindfield LC
Written by Bev and Usuff
The Prospect of Doing A Laugh May Be Funnier Than Doing It
I did a laughter presentation for LuLuLemon Atheletica, an athletics store here in Sydney on January 17, 2012. It was a small group of young ladies ladies, mostly staff of the store. Once participants were warmed up and eased into the laughter, it took on a momentum and a third of the time I just stood there, doing nothing as they cracked up… Participants were mostly ladies in their early twenties. I had little interaction with them. After leading the laugh, they were more comfortable doing it amongst themselves, their peer group, than with an older guy like myself. But that’s perfectly fine. (Laughter is always consensual, just like sex.)
There was one older lady there, however. Suzie. She had a slightly withdrawn demeanour. I attempted to do the laugh with her now and then, but just fleetingly, and withdrew when I sensed it wasn’t in her comfort zone to go further. When it came time for the monkey laugh (make eye contact, make soft monkey sounds, pretend to groom without touching or tickling) I approached the older lady to see if she’d do it with me. We made eye contact and we both cracked up, without doing the laugh. I respected her boundary in not doing the laugh with her, and the prospect of actually doing it was mutually hilarious. She cracked up too. It took my laughter to a higher place.
The prospect of doing the laugh was funnier than actually doing the laugh itself.
After the session I was on a slight “high”. I noticed a cool, relaxed feeling touching my core, reaching a deeper place. A pleasant feeling. It happens only once or twice a year. Hurray for endorphins!
Laughter At Parramasala On November 5 2011
When : 5 November 2011
1:30PM – 2:15PM
Venue : Town Hall Square, 182 Church Street, Parramatta
Price : FREE!
You do not need to have a particular sense of humour, nor do you need to feel like laughing to enjoy a laughter yoga class. You will find that before long the laughter flows naturally due to the group dynamics and the contagious nature of laughter.
Laughter yoga teaches you to laugh freely from the body, rather than from the mind. This session involves gentle stretching, breathing and easy playful exercises. The aim is natural and effortless laughter. Participants are able to participate and enjoy at their own comfort level. The idea of “laughter clubs” was started in 1995 by an Indian doctor who recognized the many health benefits of laughter. Laughter clubs can now be found all over the world, especially in Asia.
This session is suitable for all ages 5 to 95. Please bring a cap and bottled water. The session is led by Usuff Omar, an experienced certified laughter yoga leader, who runs a regular laughter yoga class every Sunday at the North Sydney Community Centre.
The length of the session will be around 45 minutes
Does Smiling Increase Longevity?
Yes, there’s evidence that suggests that smiling does increase longevity. Also, ancient Taoists in China studied which was the highest form of laughter. Their answer – a heartfelt smile!
Excerpts from the video above.
“I started my journey in California with a UC Berkley 30-year longitudinal study that examined the photos of students in an old yearbook and tried to measure their success and well-being throughout their life. By measuring their student smiles, researchers were able to predict how fulfilling and long-lasting a subject’s marriage will be, how well she would score on standardized tests of well-being and how inspiring she would be to others…
Another aha! moment came from a 2010 Wayne State University research project that looked into pre-1950s baseball cards of Major League players. The researchers found that the span of a players smile could actually predict the span of his life. Players who didn’t smile in their pictures lived an average of only 72.9 years, where players with beaming smiles lived an average of almost 80 years.”
This is what a LA Times article on March 29 2010 had to say on this subject.
“People who smile a lot are usually happier, have more stable personalities, more stable marriages, better cognitive skills and better interpersonal skills, according to research. Science has just uncovered another benefit of a happy face. People who have big smiles live longer.”
Mosman High School Laughter Session
It all started with a phone call from Mandy a couple of months ago. She explained that she was a teacher at Mosman High School and was enquiring about a laughter session on behalf of her students. Laughter was one of the subjects her year 11 psychology students were studying, and they wanted a first hand experience of a laughter yoga session. So yesterday was the big day. A space was cleared at Mosman High School’s library and in trooped around 30 year 11 students. There was a sense of anticipation in the air.
Mandy reminded her students to be “flexible” with what was about to come and then introduced me. I followed up on her remarks, advising them to take it as it comes and not to think about it too much. Laughter involves some loss of emotional control and, for some, that’s an unfamiliar place to go. I also commended them for wanting to try it out. The notion that a group of people could come together to laugh for almost no reason sounds far fetched and implausible. And it’s too easy to discount the idea. Until you’ve done it. Then you have an experience of it and begin to understand this might not be so off base after all.
The idea of “laughter clubs” has humble origins with an impulsive but visionary idea by a Mumbai doctor, Madan Kataria, in 1995. It has now spread to more than 60 countries worldwide. It relies on the fact that, as advanced social primates, laughter is somehow hard wired into us. And brought out through group interaction.
The session went fantastically well. Participation was very high and the laughter was natural. We segued into a “laughter meditation” session, where a few students really cracked up. And closed with a short guided relaxation. At the end I summarized some of the benefits of laughter, especially the psychological benefits such as increased social confidence, better relationships and stress reduction. In her closing remarks Mandy informed us that the laughter could be heard outside the building and created some jealously in those who were wondering what was going on.
To help cover my costs a donation bowl was laid out at the end and about $50 was collected. I requested this be donated to a charity. A vote was taken and there was about a close 50-50 split between breast cancer and Somalia, but Somalia won out. The next day Mandy texted me “Hi Usuff just donated the $50 through Australia Red Cross to Somalia. Money goes directly to food…”
Laughter is a very connecting force. It brings people together. My parting words to the group were “your laughter saved a kid in Somalia!” Wouldn’t that be a nice notion? Laugh and save the world.
Mandy asked would I consider delivering a laughter session next year for her current Year 10 students. Absolutely. Laughter expands when it’s shared. And you never know where her students will take the idea. I wished I could have experienced a laughter yoga session when I was in year 11. Life would have been so different.
Newtown Laughter Club Celebrates 10th Anniversary
Newtown Laughter Club celebrated its tenth anniversary on Saturday May 21st 2011. Yes, for the past ten solid years, without a break, Newtown’s laughter club at Camperdown Memorial Park at the corner of Federation and Australia Street has been meeting almost every Saturday at 10am in the morning for giggles and guffaws.
I spoke to the founder of the club, Rowena, to ask her how it all came about. What gave her the idea of starting a “laughter club”. Because although laughter clubs are more well known nowadays, ten years ago they were a completely unknown entity and a novelty. The idea of a bunch of people getting together to, err, laugh. That was a funny concept in itself which sounded almost implausible.
Rowena recalled that in the late 1990s she saw a documentary on ABC Australian television called “Race Around The World” which featured laughter clubs during the contestants’ travels in India. That planted the seeds in Rowena’s mind and she would not forget. (The program aired in 1997 and 1998.) Fast foward to October 1999 and Rowena was attending a four day mediation workshop. At the workshop there was a gentleman from Mumbai and the subject of laughter clubs popped up. The Indian gentleman had experience with them so he volunteered to lead a laughter club session with the group, which was Rowena’s first experience of laughter clubs. Being so much fun, it reinforced Rowena’s idea to start a laughter locally.
Probably around the early months of 2001 the Chauvel theatre in Paddington had a showing of renown film maker Mira Nair’s documentary entitled “The Laughter Clubs of India”. Rowena decided to go to the showing to find if there were others in Sydney who would also be interested in starting a club. She mentioned to her yoga friends at breakfast after her regular yoga that she was was seeing the movie and, being intrigued, they wanted her to demonstrate the laughs. They thought it was hilarious and promised they’d come if she started it. At the show Rowena met Shirley Hicks, who coincidentally had seen the same ABC documentary “Race Around The World” and who was organizing to create an umbrella laughter club organization called “Laughter Clubs of New South Wales”. Shirley, in fact, started her own laughter club, Hunters Hill laughter club, just a couple of weeks before Rowena started hers. So it could be said Newtown is almost the oldest laughter club in Sydney, Hunters Hill being the very first, but just.
So on Saturday May 19th 2001, Newtown Laughter Club was born. Rowena led a bunch of folks to a corner of Camperdown Memorial Park in Newtown, got them standing around in a circle and, well, started exercises that created laughter. An idea that had been brewing for months, even years, eventually maturated and came to fruition. (For anyone interested in starting a laughter club, that’s all it takes, just go to the park, have other folks join and, well, laugh. That’s it, no fanfare.) My hat off to Rowena because for someone with no “training” in leading a laughter club, it was a leap of faith. I know that when Shirley started her laughter club at Hunters Hill, she had the benefit of training from Peter Salerno, who learned directly from Dr Madan Kataria, whom he invited to Australia in the latter part of the 1990s.
When I first attended Newtown Laughter Club in January 2003, Rowena was still leading every week, although in the months to follow Simon began to share the leadership more and more until he took over as the regular laughter leader in 2004.
Rowena recalls that in the early years, it was passersby who joined in and who contributed greatly to the laughs that the club did. An Indian gentleman contributed the balloon laugh, whilst others suggested the juggling and secret whisper laughs, amongst others.
In late 2004 Rada took over laughter leadership of the club, a role which she maintained till only this year, when she relocated outside Sydney. Now the leadership rotates amongst members from week to week.
Happy anniversary, Newtown Laughter Club! Wishing you and all its members lots of laughter for the next ten years, and well beyond.
World Laughter Day 2011 Celebrated in Sydney
World Laughter Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of May, which this year of 2011 falls on the first of May. World Laughter Day (WLD) was conceived by Dr Madan Kataria. He set the date and applied to the United Nations to officially declare it as such. Having found his proposal got bogged down, he just went ahead and declared it himself. And since then the world has been catching up. For example, the City of Chicago this year recognized WLD.
Here in Sydney we were glad to have Dr Umesh Sahgal, President of Delhi Laughter Club join our local celebration and lead us in a laughter session on the 1st of May 2011. Dr Sahgal, a dentist, was first exposed to laughter clubs in Mumbai. He then started the Delhi Laughter Club in Delhi, where he lives. He said he initially approached people practicing yoga in the park and persuaded them to devote part of their time to laughter yoga. He found with time some participants spent less and and less time on conventional yoga and more time on laughter yoga. Laughter yoga became increasingly popular to the point where Dr Sahgal is now in charge of organizing nine laughter clubs in different parts of North Delhi.
Dr Sahgal explained that he has expanded on some of Dr Kataria’s teachings in that he emphasizes the importance of the breath and oxygen even more. In fact he led the Sydney laughter group out of their usual indoor setting to conduct the session in the open air of the adjacent playground. Dr Sahgal also incorporates certain traditional yoga asanas into laughter yoga exercises, adding laughing sounds to certain poses that, without the sound, would be identifiable yoga asanas. He calls these “exercises with laughter”, and the more hilarious exercises as “laughter with exercises”. He also believes in positive reinforcement, with participants regularly praising each other with the words “very good, very good, very good.”
Dr Sahgal is no stranger to Sydney in that he appeared on Channel Ten’s news in the run up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi.
Below are clips taken on May 1 2001 at North Sydney Laughter Yoga showing Dr Sahgal leading the group in a laughter session.
PS Dr Sahgal tells me WLD was celebrated in Delhi by a procession of about 1500 people! Their program consisted of laughter yoga sessions, a procession around the Japanese Park, and prominent personalities then addressing the laughter rally.
Laughter Yoga In Sydney’s CBD At Lunch Time
My colleague Michael Shineberg is now holding weekly lunchtime laughter yoga sessions in the Sydney CBD, near Town Hall.
Details of the weekly sessions are as follows.
City Laughter Yoga
Time: Fridays 12.30 – 1.30pm
Venue: Suite 203 127 York Street
(Opposite QVB’s middle entrance on York St side.)
Cost : $10 donation to cover room hire.
Facilitator : Michael Shineberg
Or : David Low
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Please do join. There’s no need to book ahead. Just show up. Michael was trained by Dr Kataria when he was in Sydney in 2007. It was the last time that Dr Kataria personally offered laughter yoga leader training in Australia. Now he trains the trainers. The next time Dr Kataria will be in Australia for training will be in August 2011 in Adelaide.
Michael has given laughter yoga sessions in Sydney before at Summer Hill. I think they were monthly sessions. I attended a few (they were on Saturday night.) What great workshops they were. Food was also provided.
So just imagine. You get back to the office after lunch with a big smile on your face. And no one knows you’ve just come back from a laughter yoga session. Don’t worry, they’ll all think you are smiling because of the encroaching weekend. And if they ask, you can tell them that. Or you can let them know you were at laughter yoga. They might crack up if you tell them.
A beer and natter with colleagues after work on Fridays is a great tradition. Why not make the day even more super with a lunch time laughter yoga in the city session?
The following is the article I wrote for EzineArticles.com. It was published a month ago. I thought I’d reproduce it here.
Yes, seriously. Making a woman laugh increases her chances that she will conceive. This finding comes from a unique study which was conducted at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Israel. The results of the study were released in 2006. Researchers, led by Dr Shevach Friedler, an expert in the field of human fertility and reproduction, accidentally discovered that using humor and laughter almost doubled the conception rate, probably due to an alleviation of stress experienced by women undergoing IVF treatment. In setting out to conduct this study the researchers had little inkling about the connection between laughter and fertility, but when the results were in, the conclusions from this small study were inescapable. The researchers did not expect it and were astounded and delighted by it. This study is a first in the field of laughter and human fertility. Taking charge of your fertility is perhaps possible with the power of therapeutic clowning and laughter.
The study involved 186 women between the ages of 25 and 40. All were undergoing IVF treatment. Half the women were visited by a “clown doctor” during the critical period after embryo transfer whilst recuperating in bed. The other half of the women got nothing (the “control” group). In other words, this was a real experiment.
For the women in the clown therapy group, after their embryo transfer had taken place, and whilst lying in bed, a clown came in to interact with them with the aim of getting them to smile and laugh. Humor and laughter was used as an antidote to stress. And according to Dr Shevach, the women responded wonderfully.
The clown doctor, dressed as a hospital chef, connected with patients and got them to see the funny side during the session which lasted 10 – 15 minutes. (Just talking about hospital food gets me laughing). The clown (who didn’t wear the usual clown outfit to avoid the association with children) not only tried to make patients laugh, they also related to them and tuned into their feelings. The clown was professionally trained in therapeutic clowning. The aim of the clown therapy was to decrease the anxiety levels of the patients undergoing IVF treatment, which can be a stressful event for any women undertaking this procedure and for whom such paramount importance is placed on conceiving.
The results were striking. Of the women who had the clown treatment, 33 became pregnant versus only 18 women in the control group. That’s almost double the success rate. Dr Friedler admits he has no scientifically proven explanation for the result and intends to conduct a larger scale study in the future. Knowing laughter can increase conception rates is another way of taking charge of your fertility.
Regardless of the lack of an explanation, an important take away lesson from this study is for husbands to support their wives after intimacy by way of creating a stress free environment, particularly one that induces laughter. After sex, lighten up, watch a funny movie, be with friends who make you laugh. This is another way of taking charge of your fertility. Yes, laughter can make you pregnant. What was the saying? Laughter promotes life, literally.