Learning How to Ha, Ha, Ha | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 20.04.2002
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Learning How to Ha, Ha, Ha

The Germans don't laugh enough. But now they can officially learn to look at the lighter side of life with trained therapists at the first organisation for German laughter yoga therapists.


Laughing to good health!

The Germans aren’t exactly known for their sense of humour or for laughing uproariously.

A scientific study has concluded that the Germans laugh just 6-7 minutes at the most every day.

But that could change.

There’s now help for those who want to shed the image of grave Germans with tightly pursued lips, who don’t seem to twitch a single facial muscle.

Yoga-laughter therapist Johannis Jappe say that people can learn the art of laughing, though most people simply can’t laugh without reason.

As a founding member of the first organisation of German Yoga-laughter therapists in Cologne, he knows what he’s talking about.

He wants people to be happier and create a "culture of laughter" all over Germany.

Laughing all the way from India

The idea that laughing can be learned is not new.

All over Europe people guffaw in so-called laughter clubs.

Gudula Steiner-Junker is the founder of the first European laughter club.

Some 50 cheery members have been meeting in her Yoga-laughter centre in Wiesbaden weekly since 1998 to happily chortle together.

Laughter Yoga comes from India.

It’s not uncommon to stumble upon a group of middle-aged people, waving their arms and hooting loudly with laughter in parks, in the metropolises of Bombay and Delhi.

Laugh and be healthy

Laughter is considered a natural tonic in India, one that boosts health, helps one get over inhibitions and is touted as the perfect antidote to ageing.

Therapists in India developed the concept to prove that one can mobilise natural strengths by the simplest of means and remain bodily and mentally fit through it.

It’s believed that laughter is the easiest way to more creativity and unconscious potential.

And though humour – as most know – is contagious, this is one condition that can’t cause any nasty side-effects.

Even so-called "clown doctors" or "clinic clowns" are known to clown around in hospitals for therapeutic purposes, to lighten the hospital stay of sick children.

You can learn to laugh

But the question remains whether laughter therapy will be accepted as readily in the West.

Can one really teach "laughter" as a subject with a time-table and the right teachers et al?

Therapists of the first organisation of German laugher therapists certainly seem to think so. They also believe that one quickly gets over the feeling of the laughter seeming "forced" initially.

And does one really need an organisation for that?

Yes, say the laughter therapists.

It’s necessary also to protect the new breed of therapists. Otherwise just about anyone could call himself a "laughter therapist".

After all such a profession has to be treated with a certain amount of seriousness too. Even when we’re talking laughter here.