April 22, 2018 10:31:07 am
Written by FATIMA ALAM
It is 6.45 am. Gathered in a close circle on the Girgaum Chowpatty are over a dozen senior citizens. For the next two hours every morning, they do what the texting generation has limited to three letters — LOL. They laugh out loud. Started in 2008, their informal laughter club has become a popular morning visual for locals, who pass by in the South Mumbai neighbourhood.
“My day doesn’t go well unless I come here,” smiles Shakun Gabadia Karai, aged 68, who began yoga and laughter therapy five years ago. Karai lost her husband when she was 38, and struggled with depression and diabetes. “My sugar levels were restored to normalcy, depression got cured after I started laughter yoga,” she claims. The Sion resident works in a vegetable farm house in Panvel, where she handles the business. Former bank employee Kishore H Kuvavala, now chairman of Priyadarshini Laughter Club, explains, “Laughter provides an alternative medicine to the mind, body and soul, in an age where stress is the root of 95 per cent of all diseases that have plagued the world.” He conducts laughter therapy sessions free of cost for anyone who joins the group on Chowpatty beach every morning.
Starting with the basic breathing exercises, the real laughter begins only after 7.30 am, when all the members are, as they like to call it, “charged up and open”. The first laughing exercise, called the mirror laughter, requires the members to hold a mirror in front of them to which they laugh and chant positive affirmations to themselves. In the second exercise, the bird laughter, they all enact a bird, by trailing both hands in mid-air like flapping of wings, or acting like a bird would feed.
In another exercise, they distribute chocolates and feed each other to encourage interpersonal love and harmony among the community members.
“I work on the computer for eight hours a day. The shoulder exercises help in relieving stress in my joints. I remain cheerful the entire day after laughter yoga,” said Sheetal Mehra, a Grant Road resident, who has been attending the club for three years. With the yoga routine consisting of multiple breathing and stretching exercises that focus on the acupressure points and relieving any joint pain, the members in the club claim their personal lives have improved.
Manjula Ben Madhwani, 78, is one of the oldest members of the group. She joined the club on her doctor’s recommendation, following a bypass surgery. “After my angiography, water intake had to be reduced. My health became challenging,” she said. Seven years ago she started laughter yoga, and has continued ever since. Varsha Chopra, 64, has been doing laughter yoga for 10 years. She claims that the exercises incorporated in the laughter club are similar to the ones she was made to do in the hospital after a knee replacement surgery.
Another 70-year-old member, Jayanthibai Harsova, came across the laughter yoga club while walking to Godrej Garden. “I was impressed by the concept,” she says. Harsova suffered from shoulder pain and claims laughter yoga and exercising eased her shoulder stiffness.
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