India court tells laughing yoga group to zip it

In this Friday, June 22, 2012 photo, members of the Sheetal Jogging Association perform laughter yoga around Sheetal Talao pond where they have been coming every morning for three years for laughter yoga, devotional singing and light exercise in Mumbai, India.
AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

(AP) MUMBAI, India - For the last week, the laughter around Sheetal Talao pond in suburban Mumbai has taken on a muzzled quality.

On June 18, Mumbai's high court told police to do something about the laughter that erupted beneath Vinayak Shirsat's windows each morning, causing his family "mental agony, pain and public nuisance," according to the Press Trust of India.

Since then, members of the Sheetal Jogging Association -- who have been coming to the pond for three years for laughter yoga, devotional singing and light exercise -- have been trying to contain their mirth.

"Nobody's laughing now," said member Badruddin Khan.

Watch: Laughter Yoga

Sheetal Talao is, in truth, not a nice pond. The water is low and scuzzy with trash. But it's the only open space in a neighborhood of winding lanes in the northern suburbs of India's densely packed financial capital.

The single spot of constant shade -- a small gazebo -- is right in front of Shirsat's apartment, a three-story pink building with black bars on all the windows. Nearby are two curved benches, rising from a small plot of red mud and weeds, that the club uses for meditation and laughter.

"Only this much space we've got. Where can we go?" said Prabhakar Naidu, 45, who said that since he started laughing he's been able to walk up stairs without getting winded.

Before the police and courts got involved, a dozen club members would gather around 7 a.m. to sing bhajans -- devotional songs -- and clap for seven minutes. Then they laughed out loud for two minutes.

They would hold their ear lobes, tilt their heads back, and stretch their faces wide into smiles. "Ooh ooh, ha ha," went the chant. Then they would sweep their arms to their toes and reach for the sky, opening their mouths wide to say, "Ha ha ha!"