Every day at 6 am, a group of approximately 200 people, mostly the elderly, gather at the Ly Thai To park in Hanoi in front of the statute of Ly Thai To, emperor and founder of the Lý Dynasty in the 11th century AD, to practice Laughter Yoga.
A young man in his 20s stands at the center of the crowd and instructs the people around to perform some strange moves, all in the name of laughter.
Apart from hand-clapping and breathing, everyone is trained to open their mouth widely for a few minutes. After that, they bend their heads, stare at one another and then burst into laughter.
The training session often lasts from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Laughter Yoga (Hasyayoga) was founded by Dr. Madan Kataria in Mumbai, India in 1995. Since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 7000 Laughter Clubs in about 70 countries.
In the beginning of March 2011, Dr. Madan Kataria came to Vietnam to launch the first Laughter Club in the country by giving a training course to the first batch of local students in this unique therapy.
Laughter Yoga was later introduced to Hanoi by Le Anh Son, currently the president of the club, who attended a training course in Bangalore, India. Since his return to the capital city, Son has helped turn Laughter Yoga into a special morning exercise for Hanoians.
According to Dr. Kataria, the success of Laughter Yoga is to help people laugh as genuinely as possible, without the need of humor, funny jokes, or comedy programs — just a willingness to laugh, and in the current climate everyone needs to laugh more.
Laughter Yoga is a combination of Laughter Exercises with Yogic Breathing (pranayama), so that you increase the amount of oxygen in your body whilst being playful, resulting in you feeling more healthy, energized and alive. There are about 350 to 400 different Laughter Yoga poses for your selection, depending on your cultural taste or habits. You can even make up or invent new postures.
Besides Hanoi, Laughter Yoga clubs have also been set up in other provinces and cities, drawing a large number of participants.