After experiencing severe mental and physical abuse, a group of women in India are taking their power back. How? By teaching themselves and others how to laugh again.
“Laughing yoga” is a growing trend in India that is helping victims of trauma find their way back to the light, after enduring the horrific practice of acid burn attacks.
The attacks, which are typically carried out against young women by scorned suitors, number in the hundreds each year. Victims are left physically scarred in an attempt to ruin their chances of finding a partner. But it’s the emotional scars that laughing yoga can help to soothe.
Founder of the Atjeveen Foundation, Pragya Singh says, “It’s about taking that power back from the attacker, allowing yourself to feel joy again.” Singh has spent two years organising laughing yoga classes for survivors of acid burn attacks.
Founder of the Atjeveen Foundation, Pragya Singh says, “It’s about taking that power back from the attacker, allowing yourself to feel joy again.”
Singh herself was attacked three days after her wedding, at just 23, by a rejected suitor. “Most of the patients, after the attack, are confined in the four walls of their home, and they don’t go out,” she says. “It’s a societal stigma that you must blame the victim.”
Laughing yoga is helping to bring a community of women together through their shared experiences, to lean on each other as they emotionally heal and re-enter society. “Through [laughing yoga] we are able to empower women so that they are able to empower more women around them. It builds a community,” Singh says.
The demand for laughing yoga is continuing to grow in India. Instructor, Archana Rao, has now chosen to expand her classes to benefit workplaces, schools and hospitals.“People have taken life too seriously. Now it is time to take laughter seriously,” says Rao. “Your body cannot differentiate from real laughter and fake laughter. You still get the same physical, emotional and psychological benefits,” she explains. “I can see the difference it makes in these people’s lives.”
“Your body cannot differentiate from real laughter and fake laughter. You still get the same physical, emotional and psychological benefits.”
Crowned as the ‘Mother of Laughing’, Doctor Suchitra Kaul Misra, is the instructor used by Pragya Singh’s foundation. Holding Singh’s hand, Dr Misra tells us, “They have gone through traumas which are beyond our imagination... The physical pain is taken care of, but it’s the mental scars that remain.”
“These women need that safe space. They need the space where they can connect. There is a fountain of laughter which is bubbling inside of them,” says Misra.
Singh agrees. “It changes their life.”