Ho ho ha ha ha...that is how members of the Always Be Cheerful Laughter Club start their day. Founded by Shirin Panjwani, the club was started in 1997 and they recently got together to celebrate International Laughter Day. Shirin says, “Before the club was started, there was awareness among certain sections of people about the health benefits of laughing, but the club acted as a medium to take it up as an exercise.”
The club, that started in Indira Park almost 18 years ago, has now spread across the city and also has its presence in places like Vishkhapatnam, Tirupati, Nanded and Anantapur. Each club has close to 35 active members. On International Laughter Day on May 3, they hosted a rally on Tank Bund Road where they encouraged passersby to adopt laughter into their day-to-day activities by raising slogans like Ek do teen char – Khulke Haso Barbar, 1 2 3 – laughing is free, etc.
Realising the importance of having a laughter club that will inform and encourage people to take up laughing as an exercise, Dr Madan Katria came up with Laughter Clubs in 1995, in Mumbai. The exercise has been named as Hasya yoga (Laughter Yoga) from then. It was later brought to Hyderabad by Shirin, after she was amazed by its benefits.
Laughing for no reason is challenging. Shirin agrees to this and says, “We follow a particular routine everyday which is practised like any other exercise. We start with warm up that is followed by different kinds of exercises – silent laughter, lion laughter, etc. It starts with slight chuckling, but as laughter is contagious, even a person who is laughing for the sake of it, dissolves into laughter. To make sure that people don’t get bored, we keep making modifications to our regular exercises,” Shirin who initially was into footwear business informs.
Hasya Yoga releases good hormones into the body. It can also help a patient suffering from diabetes, blood pressure, depression, lung related diseases, etc., recover easily.
“Even doctors recommend their patients to join our clubs,” Shirin expresses adding that practising Hasya Yoga in morning also releases good chemicals in the body as morning sun rays are healthy for body. While laughing makes up to considerable amount of Hasya Yoga, other exercises are also included in it. Apart from healing our body, Hasya Yoga also improves one’s personality.
“It changes a person’s approach to life. It calms a short-tempered person, makes a reserved person outgoing and also changes the way we talk to people. The person talking to us will find us very accommodating. It improves the way one looks by tightening our face muscles,” she elaborates.
Recalling her initial days with the laughter club, the 75-year-old says that as many denizens were aware of it which made it easy for her to get people to join her, “But the passersby would be amazed,” she grins.
The laughter club members comprise of people from various professions – doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc., “As there is no membership fee, the person from lower economic background also finds place for themselves in the club.
The laughter club members also train people who wish to learn the skill and continue it as a day-to-day exercise. “We go to various schools, colleges, old age homes, corporate companies and train them. They take it forward as a regular activity in their premises. We have also trained people in Chanchalguda jail,” she adds.