EVENT: Laughter, The Best Medicine

Get ready, get set … laugh! It’s harder than it sounds, but John Chen (陳達誠), a practitioner of laughter yoga, is confident that the chuckles will flow at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall on Sunday morning for World Laughter Day.

Chen, who heads the Taiwan Laughter Yoga Club, said last year 150 people showed up for the event, which is held yearly on the first Sunday of May.

This year, Chen aims to gather “100 pairs of family members” to laugh together for 100 seconds under the theme of “World Peace with families” and hopes to see participation from the foreign community. All are welcome to join in and participation is free of charge.

World Laughter Day was started as an offshoot from the laughter yoga movement began by Indian Madan Kataria in 1995. Kataria, a former physician, came up with a set of breathing and laughing exercises while researching the health benefits of laughter.

He founded the first laughter yoga club in Mumbai, which quickly grew into a global phenomenon. Today there are more than 6,000 such clubs in over 60 countries, according to Kataria’s Web site www.laughteryoga.org.

Chen, a 52-year-old who runs a shop selling medical equipment in Taoyuan, learned about laughter yoga through a Discovery Channel program that featured Kataria and his laughter yoga regimen. He was immediately impressed.

“It was so easy, the laughter was so great,” he said. “[You don’t] need any equipment, or devices, or special places.”

Chen started his own laughter club in 2004, now one of 21 such groups in Taiwan, and became a certified instructor. He leads a group 30-minute session of laughter exercises every morning at a Taoyuan park, which sometimes starts with a routine of fake laughter for which participants chant “ha ha ha, ho ho ho.”

Fake laughter inevitably turns into real laughter, says Chen. By David Chen, Taipei Times