A “Laughter Phoenix” — Miraculous Revivals through Laughter Yoga

Junsuke Ando, Japan: I actually could have died many years ago but here I am, now in my 70s, very much alive and kicking! Thanks to Laughter Yoga which worked miraculously to save me from three cerebral strokes, a heart attack, bankruptcy and a divorce. It gave me a new lease of life, changed my whole perspective and gave me an inner strength to cope with all the challenges I faced. It brought back my lost laughter and hope and once again filled me with positivity and joy.

I want to share my incredible story with as many people as possible so that those critically ill people and those suffering from difficulties of life may also be rescued from their pain and sorrow by laughing. It is because I am convinced that laughter makes us healthy and happy both physically and mentally.

In 2002 I suffered my first stroke, while at a lecture. I could not speak and my right side was totally paralyzed. But thanks to the rehabilitation program, I got back my speech without any problem. But it was the physical immobility, which made me self- centred and extremely irritable. My wife was unable to cope with my constant selfish behaviour and left me, which further plunged me into serious depression. This lasted for almost three years, even though I had a psychiatric treatment. In 2004, I was officially acknowledged as a physically handicapped person by the Tokyo municipal government. It was as if my life had stopped and I had nothing to look forward to.

Five years of this living and barely managing to get back on my own, I had my second stroke in 2007. Like in the first stroke, the right half of my body was paralyzed, though I did not lose my speaking ability this time but the paralysis remained and the after-effect of the stroke was obvious in my clumsy way of walking and movements.

Two years later, in 2009, while still trying to get my life on the tracks, I happened to come across Laughter Yoga. I was having a meal at a restaurant, when a rather senior lady approached me. She must have sensed that I was ill, and began talking to me about Laughter Yoga, explaining how it combines deep breathing and laughter to bring about a substantial change in the body. She even demonstrated a couple of laughter exercises, but I was rather indifferent. In spite of understanding my disinterest, she gave me her card, which became a turning point in my life!

As I understood laughing was indeed good for one’s health, I decided to call the number and go to Tokyo Olympic Centre where I met Mary Tadokoro, who managed a Laughter Yoga club. In this first encounter with her, I explained my physical condition and knew that with my paralysis, I could not join any exercise that would require difficult body movements. Mary told me to just sit on a chair and watch everyone. Thus began my Laughter Yoga.

When I came home after the session, my blood pressure levels had come down, which I found very strange as I had not actually participated in Laughter Yoga. Mary then told me that even if you do not laugh, just being in the same place with laughing people, the brain is led to think you are laughing. I decided right there and then to try out Laughter Yoga. It was not easy first time to force me to laugh, but, amazingly, in a very brief time, any sense of embarrassment faded away and I found myself laughing with the group. Two months thereafter, I did a leader training course and even met

Dr. Madan Kataria, who said that in order to get all the benefits of laughter, one must make it a habit and laugh every day. From the very next day, my daily laughing life began. I have not missed a day since. It’s been almost eight years now.

Gradually, my health gradually improved around 2012, but then I was struck by a third stroke. The doctor told my brother that I may not survive this time. Again, the right half of my body could not move and some language hindrance appeared. I was resigned that this one might end my life.

Although the doctors said that I would have to be hospitalized for six months, I was able to leave the hospital in three months. Thanks to the cheerful and positive atmosphere created by all my Laughter Yoga friend, who visited me daily and made me laugh. Once it became possible to stand up on my feet a little, I went to several Laughter Yoga clubs on a wheel chair so that I could be surrounded by energizing laughter. And this greatly helped in my recovery.

But my travails were not yet over. In 2014, I suffered an angina attack and had to be hospitalized once again. The doctors said I needed immediate surgery as my arteries were totally clogged. Though everyone felt it would be better to get the operation done quickly, my laughter friend Yuriko had a different opinion. She said, “You are still alive, although your blood vessels are all worn out. If you get a surgery, it may just kill you on the spot!!” I opted not to get any operation and decided to simply and totally focus on Laughter Yoga. And then a miracle happened. The doctor told my friends that a very strange thing was happening. Right next to my clogged blood vessel, new tiny and thin vessels were growing! This was really unbelievable! Laughter Yoga, my friends and my determination to live, all of which had combined into a certain great force to restore me back into a healthy human being.

In appreciation to Laughter Yoga for my physical, mental and spiritual recovery, I started a club so that more people can benefit from this great movement. For me, Laughter Yoga is the medicine that works on life. I feel great now; I can do almost anything. As a septuagenarian “Laughter Phoenix” who wants to repay the Universe for the great miracle that Laughter Yoga bestowed on me, I know I will live many, many more years — laughing, thanking and loving!! And now that I have shared my experience, I am not the only one to be convinced of this truth. I know you all will be too!! Hahahaha!!!

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