Rx: Laughter

The natural upper that doesn't require a prescription.

By Anna Gamboa Gan


Tough day at work? Some people take advantage of happy hour at a cafe not far from the busy central business district—to laugh their guts out. Here, Silly Peoples Improvisational Theater or SPiT, one of Manila’s best improv comedy groups, unspools unscripted absurd vignettes, one after another—and are rewarded with giggles or side-splitting guffaws. They play various scenarios with the audience’s contributions—everything is on the fly and the only safety nets for these performers are their quick wits and each other.

A laugh a day...

Laughing counts as a form of exercise, according to fitness trainer Asha Macam, who says, “The happy news is 10 straight minutes of laughter—it’s cardio, too—can burn up to 40 calories.” She recommends getting those hee-haws in by enjoying an uninterrupted hour of your favourite sitcom.

But laughter does something more than stimulate those feel-good endorphins that deliver a high to both the audience and performers. “Improv works on the principle that you say ‘yes, and...?’ to everything and you build from it,” explains SPiT comedian and improv teacher Dingdong Rosales. “I used to be OC, actually I still am,” he confides with a giggle. “I used to stress about things, everything had to be perfect ... but now it’s different [with improv]—it’s actually very refreshing.” It’s like a life lesson: that there’s no such thing as a bad experience, just funny ones, provided you’re willing to see it in a different light.

He continues, “Even after a long day at work, we come here, we perform, we get recharged.” It’s a sentiment echoed by his fellow performers, most of whom have different professions, from an architect to a documentary filmmaker to a jane-of-all-trades. Rosales further explains that improvisation is freeing in the sense that there are no rehearsals or scripts involved—so the performers just go with the flow. “It’s therapeutic, in a way,” he muses.

Mind-body workout

Laughter yoga teacher and diabetic Paolo Trinidad claims that daily practice has helped him control his blood sugar levels and shed weight. He adds, “My memory has improved a lot ... my skin as validated by my dermatologist has become more youthful, and I noticed my EQ has greatly improved.”

Trinidad, the first certified laughter yoga instructor in the country, describes the exercise (see sidebar) as “laughing for no reason ... there are no jokes, comedy or humor—only simple exercises that will trigger laughter. The brain, according to science, actually cannot distinguish between fake or real laughter, so it is as simple as faking it till you make it.” He has since rebranded the local version as Pinoy Laughter Yoga (PLY), claiming that it adapted certain aspects of Filipino culture to make it relatable—and has since trained over 480 people in this method, bringing this form of therapy all over the country. He counts among his clients schools, hospitals, call centers, and cancer support groups “because it helps in pain management and also in the management of the disease.”

“The participants in the session do not just learn the scientific way of laughing, ... they also learn to tap the vast source of joy inside themselves,” explains Trinidad. The PLY guru cites Norman Cousins in his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, as an example of the healing power of laughter, “[He] cured himself of a rare spinal column disease through belly laughter, so if one watches funny videos and one laughs through the diaphragm then one gets its benefits, but I reiterate they need the right supervision as doctors reminded me of the possibility of hyperventilation.”

Pinoy Laughter Yoga
Mobile: (0926) 649 3779

Improv Thursdays at Quantum Cafe, 9:00 p.m.
9590 Kamagong cor. Bagtikan Street, Makati City
(02) 519 0757

Want to get started on that laugh trip? Get a copy of the October issue of HealthToday magazine from your nearest bookstore or newsstand to find out how.

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