Laughing at cancer. It seems like the ultimate joke; an oxymoron, and even a crazy idea. How do we find any sort of happiness when we are confronted with what can be a very unhappy, life-threatening disease? The answer is just as surprising as the question.
We don't laugh because we are happy. We are happy because we laugh.
Laughter in any form, whether real or rehearsed, has the ability to change our blood chemistry. “Laughter Yoga”, simply put, is all about breathing. If you can learn to pull in oxygen by deep breathing from the diaphragm, your body will respond accordingly. Unlike traditional Yoga practices that use postures and poses, Laughter Yoga is an active exercise where we laugh together intentionally while creating fun, visual scenarios and physical movement. We initiate laughter as an exercise in the group, but with eye contact and childlike playfulness, which soon turns into real and contagious laughter.
The practice of Laughter Yoga or "Laughter therapy" has been around for more than a decade. My wife, now bestowed with the title "World Laughter Yoga Ambassador" by Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder and popularizer of the process, first introduced me to the idea long before male breast cancer appeared in my life. I was the lone male; self-conscious and reluctant to openly participate at the first Laughter Yoga gathering I attended in a public park. There were 10 of us sitting in a circle in the open space, laughing for no apparent reason while dozens of people strolling by, looking at us as though we belonged in a mental facility. At least, that's how it felt to me. Needless to say, I left early.
Just as men are generally much slower than women to catch their breast cancer before it progresses to an advanced state, guys are also much less likely to try something as unnerving as laughing with a group—unless beer and a darkened room are involved. The truth is there are many more women involved in practicing and teaching Laughter Yoga than there are men.
But in my view, there are many more women doing lots of groundbreaking work in the world; the stuff that puts people on edge by virtue of the discomfort it causes, but ultimately brings important, evolutionary changes to our planet and our species.
Having said that, it's important to note that I'm not some sort of "man-basher". On the contrary, this is the very reason why I have dedicated my work and my life to helping men understand that they have breasts and therefore they can get breast cancer. I want guys to find the help they need, and Laughter Yoga can be a wonderful adjunct tool to cope with the stress of cancer.
Like anything we use in our quest to alleviate pain and discomfort, Laughter Yoga is one tool among many. But it's easy, it's almost always fun and in this case, it's absolutely free. In fact, my wife has been hosting her free "Laughter Yoga on the phone" calls twice a day for 12 years as a public service. In that time, she's laughed with thousands of people who call in from around the world, in 20-minute sessions that are simply about "laughter". Nothing to sell. Nothing to buy. Nothing to lose.
The science behind the benefits of laughter is sound. And if you're attending the CURE® patient-focused sessions at the Miami Breast Cancer Conference in Florida this coming Saturday, March 9th, you can experience first-hand your own remarkable, enjoyable and invigorating results as we kick off the conference at 7:00 am with an hour of happy, healing, healthy, heart-felt and hilarious Laughter Yoga. Join us if you can!