A prison guard and inmates take part in "Laughter Yoga" inside the Mandaluyong city jail in this Reuters file photo. Laughter exercises have been introduced to prisoners in Mandaluyong as an addition to their rehabilitation programme, a prison warden said. Photo by Erik de Castro, Reuters/FILE
Loud giggles echoed in a government building in Manila as patients with physical disabilities gathered for an unusual therapy session.
They were practising laughter yoga, which is a combination of yoga-breathing techniques, stretching, chanting and laughter exercises.
Pinoy Laughter Yoga founder Paolo Trinidad explained why he has been offering these sessions for the past five years.
"Because when you help them through laughter, it empowers them. It changes their mindset instead of self-pity it goes to resilience, it goes to empowerment, so they becomes very positive, so instead of going to depression, it makes them very very positive and they forget about their problems," he said.
The Laughteryoga.org website said the practice can uplift mood, increase energy levels, improve memory, reduce stress and strengthen the immune system.
Flora Leones, one of the participants who has a congenital bone disorder, was at first nervous about participating.
"At first I was embarrassed because I thought, is he making fun of us? But that was not the case because it felt like an exercise routine for us," she said.
Trinidad has brought the practice of laughter yoga to non-government institutions like the Carewell Foundation, an organisation which cares for cancer patients and survivors in the Philippines.
Participants were treated to an hour-long session of giggles and roars of laughter, ending with some dancing.
"I felt really happy, like if we're exaggerating a bit, it feels like I was on cloud nine. When you are sick, you have no choice but to make yourself happy and at the same time make others affected positively," said Mayet Cordero, a breast cancer survivor.
Carewell Foundation volunteer Mayet Ganir said some cancer patients can suffer from depression and lower self-esteem, and laughter yoga offered something which complemented their medical treatment.
"Healing is not just chemotherapy and medicines, we believe that's only half , the other half is the positive outlook of the patient and giving them hope that they will get well," she said.
Laughter Yoga was created by Indian Physician Madan Kataria in 1995 and has since then gained a strong following in India and spread to different parts of the world, laughteryoga.org website said.