Laughter Yoga

June 26, 2021 at 9:14 a.m.
Local laughter yoga group, photo courtesy Randee Young
Local laughter yoga group, photo courtesy Randee Young

...by DEBBIE STONE

I’ve always been intimidated by yoga classes. I’m insecure about my inflexibility, which seems to stand out amid a sea of lithe, Gumby-like creatures. I finally left yoga to the yogis.
 
Recently, however, I caught wind of something called Laughter Yoga and my interest was piqued.
 
Laughter Yoga was created back in the 90s by Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from India. Dr. Kataria’s research found that when you combine deep yogic breathing with laughter, there is an increased flow of oxygen to the brain and body. Happy endorphins are released, resulting in an elevated mood.
 
Randee Young, a certified Laughter Yoga teacher in Duvall was first attracted to the movement after watching a Laughter Yoga specialist in action at a retirement community. Young says, “I remember saying to the instructor before she started the session, ‘You do realize this is a group of seniors…. they are never going to do that.’ The woman assured me she could get them to giggle, and sure enough, she did!” When the specialist told Young she could get trained to do this, too, that’s all it took to motivate Young to move forward with certification.
 
Laughter Yoga is for everybody, young and old, with programs throughout the country and around the world. Its popularity is rapidly growing, especially now during a global pandemic. “Participants have told me they want to get their smile or laughter back,” says Young. “Others want some relief from grief, and many are just curious about it.”
 
Laughter Yoga has many benefits. According to Young, laughter gives you that “feel good factor,” creating a positive mental state. As we know, hope and optimism are necessary tools for when the going gets tough.
 
It also works as aerobic exercise, like “internal jogging,” and tones muscles while improving circulation. Additionally, Young notes that this type of yoga, with its focus on deep breathing, aids in removing the residual air that hangs out in the lungs when we only take short, shallow breaths. Poor breathing can impact the body in negative ways, contributing to inflammation, immune dysfunction, headaches, depression and more. Deep breathing, on the other hand, has a calming effect and can decrease symptoms of pain, despair and anxiety.
 
The secret to good breathing, per Young, is to breathe out twice as long as you breathe in, and to do this often. She advocates synchronized breathing, where you regulate your breath by counting.
 
Young admits that most people don’t know what to expect during their first Laughter Yoga class. But after experiencing one, they are attracted to the release of tension, the distraction from daily life, the invitation to be silly and lower inhibitions, and the opportunity to relax.
 
Though every leader or teacher has their own style, the basics of a Laughter Yoga session include a combination of breathing exercises along with laughter exercises, eye contact and playfulness to increase the amount of oxygen to your brain and body. According to Young, it has been scientifically proven that the brain doesn’t know the difference between real laughter and exercised laughter, so it will still release the endorphins even if you’re faking it.
 
Young has participants warm up by helping them find their he-hes, ha-has and ho-hos. Then she does specific laughter exercises. The sounds should come from the diaphragm and be loud and deep— belly style. Though the laughter begins in an exercised fashion, it soon turns into the real thing.
 
Every class ends with a guided relaxation meditation, leaving participants feeling revitalized and restored.
 
In addition to teaching Laughter Yoga at retirement communities, Young has done sessions at wellness studios, the YMCA, libraries, hospitals, corporations and nonprofit organizations.
 
Young consistently receives great feedback from her. Participants tell her how much fun they had and how good it made them feel to laugh the time away. One woman wrote of her experience, “This should be required for all living people!
 
How to find a Laughter Yoga class near you

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