A laugh a day helps keep the doctor away

For ill children in an Oncology Unit, repeated sessions of laughter therapy can improve the chances of their treatment succeeding.

hands in air 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
hands in air 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Being present at an Oncology Unit of a large hospital can be a trying experience. My wife and I had been subjected to such experience while accompanying our daughter at her regular visits to receive chemotherapy at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. She had been in the company of many other patients undergoing similar treatment. All had lost or were about to lose their hair. Most of the women hid this by wearing elegant wigs. The atmosphere was pleasant and we admired the courage of the patients. However, an undercurrent of anxiety and tension could be sensed. During one of our visits, a plumpish woman entered carrying a CD player and she began to play music, encouraging the patients to sing along. After a short while, she introduced herself and stated that she was a laughter therapist and would be teaching the patients how to laugh. She explained in some detail how it had been established that laughter could considerably improve the feeling of wellbeing, and provide much support for the patients. There was also the belief that repeated sessions of laughter therapy could improve chances of their therapy succeeding. She described how one could start to laugh and demonstrated how to combine this with correct breathing. After a period of chanting "Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha Ha," in unison, within a short while simulated laughter turned into real laughter. She approached each patient in turn with further demonstration of the technique. She then approached my wife and me, and after ascertaining that we were the parents of one of the patients, she encouraged us to learn how to laugh and within a few seconds we were almost rolling on the floor with sustained and true laughter. She met with similar success from every person she approached including a young child, present with his mother. After a short while, all present, including patients, nursing staff, volunteers and domestic staff were literally laughing themselves to tears. The person providing this amazing form of therapy was Ruthie Hai, a practitioner of Laughter Yoga, who attends at the hospital, on a voluntary basis, once a week. Being stimulated by her performance, which introduced me to something entirely new, I searched the Internet, including Ruti's own web site at www.rutihai.com and learned that this form of therapy was introduced by Dr. Madan Kataria, a family practitioner from Mumbai in India. He was also a practitioner of Yoga and combined this with laughter, so that the technique is now referred to as Laughter Yoga. This is practiced in all parts of the world with Ruti being a prominent practitioner in Israel. Laughter Yoga improves health, increases well being and promotes desire for peace in the world through personal transformation. It is non-religious, non-sectarian and non-political. Laughter Yoga sessions last 20 to 30 minutes and may be adapted to suit the needs, abilities and motivations of a group participating. In the management of serious illnesses such as cancer, quality of life is as important as prognosis for survival. Application of Laughter Yoga can contribute considerably in this regard. Ruti Hai may be reached at (07) 778-03193 or 052-880-3193 or by e-mail at [email protected]