Laughing Through Cancer? You Must Be Kidding


A cancer survivor examines the link between health and humor.

In a few days I’ll be on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany to speak at the first Global Laughter Yoga Convention.

“What?” you say. Are there actually enough people practicing Laughter Yoga to warrant an International gathering?

The answer to that question (tee hee) is a resounding and joyful “yes!”

I was first certified to teach “Laughter Yoga” in 2008. It’s the brain child of Madan Kataria, a practicing medical doctor residing in Bangalore, India. Today, Laughter Yoga clubs and groups can be found in more than 70 countries.

One of the first observations I made early on was that some of my friends imagined me to be a happy and jovial guy, looking for the next punch line, always upbeat and finding humor in everything.

Certainly I’ve been tuned into comedy, working as a stage magician for 40 years, but it’s well known that many performers are introverts and not necessarily the same off stage as they are on.

So it’s important to emphasize that this simple yet powerful technique wasn’t invented for people who laugh a lot. It was created for people like me who need to laugh more, and as a cancer survivor, I certainly have found this to be useful.

My talk at the German convention this month is called “Laughing Through Cancer” and in it I make it clear that I’m not laughing at my disease—I’m laughing in spite of it.

My wife was named as one of the first international “Laugher Ambassadors” by Dr. Kataria 11 years ago, and went on to create “Laughter Yoga on the Phone” a completely free program that has helped thousands of folks discover the healthful benefits of deep breathing and laughing. Many cancer survivors took part in the daily phone calls long before I was diagnosed myself--and I saw it working.

Perhaps the most surprising part of Laughter Yoga is in its simplicity. It’s designed to encourage people to breathe properly. Deep breathing from the diaphragm has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, diminish cortisol (the stress hormone) and more.

In Laughter Yoga, we simply laugh in a group for 20 minutes at a time. It’s important to practice sustained laughter since that really is the key to its many benefits. Think of it as a form of exercise. And we laugh for no reason at all. There are no jokes, no requirements and in the case of our programs, no fees.

So, the very fact that hundreds of practicing laughers are about to converge in Frankfurt Germany for four fun-filled days is testimony to the “seriousness” of laughing, just for the health of it.

We’ll share the many successes we’ve seen from people the world over, while exchanging techniques and methods for helping others to discover ways in which they can unite in hilarious and spontaneous moments of health and healing. It wouldn't surprise me if this ends up being the "laugh heard around the world". I’ll keep you posted from Frankfurt as the convention unfolds.

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