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Laughter Yoga With Prisoners

Some years ago, famous English actor John Cleese came to Mumbai, to make a BBC documentary titled ‘‘Human Face’’ and Laughter Clubs of India were a part of that series. During his visit, I took him to many Laughter Clubs, factories and finally to Arthur Road prison, for a Laughter session. Laughter among prisoners was a humbling experience. I obtained permission from the police authorities to hold a Laughter session among the undertrials. One hour before the session, I went to the overcrowded prison premises, to build a rapport with them. As I explained the concept, about 70-80 prisoners opted to join the laughter session. I was not too sure whether they would laugh or not, because they looked sad, angry and depressed. Some of them had mask-like faces.  Along with my laughter leaders, I started with different laughter exercises. After initial hesitation, they opened up and laughed uproariously, as if all their anger had transformed into laughter. At the end of the session, everybody seemed happy, and asked when they would laugh like this again.

I spoke to many prisoners after the session, and realized they harbored a lot of anger and depression inside of them which needed to be removed, in order to prevent them from committing further acts of crime once released from jail. I knew Laughter Yoga could certainly help in resolving these long standing negative emotions in criminals, and putting them into a positive frame of mind. In fact, this is my dream project, and I am sure I will soon gain permission for such an initiative in India, and the day is not far off, when this idea will be implemented worldwide for not just prisoners but also the jail staff, warden and others who constantly live under pressure and stress.

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