Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, is the founder of and chief proselytizer for Laughter Yoga, a movement that since 1995 has spawned 5,000 laughter clubs—in which people meet regularly just to laugh—worldwide. To date there are just 200 or so clubs in the United States, including ones in Atlanta; New York; Orlando, Florida; St. Louis; and Tucson, Arizona. But Kataria hopes to change that over the next few years, by training more teachers.
"Our objective is to build an international community of people who believe in love and laughter," Kataria says. In a typical training workshop, about 20 people—yoga instructors and health care providers, retirees and middle-aged people looking for a new life path—gather for a five-day session that covers the health benefits of laughter, how to start and run a laughter club, and how to work with particular populations, such as children and the elderly. But most of the time is spent on what Kataria calls his "breakthrough technology": exercises designed to get people to laugh for no reason. These, combined with simple yoga breathing techniques and "laughter meditation," are the heart of Laughter Yoga.
Though little clinical research has been done to date, Kataria promises that Laughter Yoga relieves stress, boosts immunity, fights depression, and eventually helps people become more positive thinkers.