What is Laughter Yoga?

I interviewed a guy for an article in a magazine dedicated to expat living. Dave Berman lives in Ho Chi Minh City. Our first interview was all about Laughter Yoga and I had to interview him again to find out more about his life in HCMC since that’s what the magazine is all about. I didn’t stop him the first time because what he said was fascinating. When I started writing, I realized they would reject the article if it didn’t tell something about his life in Vietnam.

Laughter Yoga class in HCMC
Laughter class in HCMC

Dave is big on Laughter Yoga and had me try it. It actually kind of worked. The idea is to laugh “unconditionally” by taking a deep breath and then making a laughter sound like “Ha” as you breathe out slowly. “Conditional” laughter is based on hearing a joke and comes from the environment. Unconditional laughter is laughter you just do on your own. On his website, Daily Laughers, he describes the health effects of Laughter Yoga:

  • Better mood
  • Less stress
  • Improved circulation
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Increased tolerance of pain

That last one, increased tolerance of pain, is caused by the release of endorphins, the body’s “natural pain killer.” He also goes into the social and spiritual benefits of Laughter Yoga in the benefits section of his website.

I was a little doubtful until I tried it with him. Laughter Yoga did seem to elevate my mood. Dave says you should do it about 10 to 20 minutes a day.

Book about Laughter YogaLaughter Yoga was devised by Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995. Dave started practicing in 2010 and traveled to Bangalore, India in 2017 to study with Dr. Kataria and has been an almost fanatical advocate of the practice since then. He has co-written a book, Laughter for the Health of It, with Kelly T. Woods (with a forward by Dr. Kataria) and went to Ho Chi Minh City to work on another book. He then decided he didn’t want to devote all his time to the book, so he teaches laughter classes in a park in HCMC and teaches Vietnamese who speak English well public speaking.

Dave has a lot of experience at public speaking and spent 6 months traveling the world teaching what he calls Laughnosis (a blend of laughter and hypnosis, I think). He has also been a radio announcer and an NLP hypnotist and is still a a Life Coach or, as he says, a “Laughter Coach.” He tries to work Laughter Yoga into everything he does and has been producing daily videos on YouTube for nearly two years. His Facebook page has several thousand followers and Dave basically spends as much time as he can promoting Laughter Yoga.

Like I said, I was dubious at first, but every time I try it, it seems to elevate my mood. I’m rarely depressed, but I do live week-by-week and sometimes worry about the future. It seems to have the same effect on me as tickling my amygdala. Suddenly my concerns don’t seem as important as they were. As Dave says, “You are not your thoughts. It only feels like you are.” How true that is. Thoughts can grab us and bring us down, but really they’re just thoughts and we can grab them or not. It’s up to us.

Laughter Yoga quote

I really enjoyed interviewing Dave. For one thing, he laughs a lot and doesn’t seem troubled by life. That’s a relief because I see so many miserable westerners here in Sihanoukville. I’d like to have Dave teach them Laughter Yoga, but I doubt they would bother. They seem to revel in being miserable, which is kind of sad.

Anyway, I’m a Laughter Yoga newbie. Check out Dave’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel to find out more. He’s been named a Laughter Ambassador by Dr. Kataria, so you will be in good hands.