Laughter Yoga: Strengthen the mind and body!

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people laughing

Last week, SaultOnline posted an event, an information session for seniors on Laughter Yoga.

Needless to say, we were intrigued about this form of exercise. What did it entail? We had never heard of this before!

So today, I showed up at the Senior Citizen Drop in Centre at 619 Bay St., along with about thirty other women to hear what it was all about.

Allyne Leonard, the Laughter Yoga Facilitator, explained quite simply that “as we get older, we laugh less.” Many women around the room nodded thoughtfully in agreement – and it’s true. As the stresses of modern living, aging, and ailments catch up with us, it is easy to get into a rut of depression, stiffness, and exhaustion.

Indian cardiologist, Dr. Madan Kataria, wanted to find the solution to this common issue. In 1995, a breakthrough in his research determined that acting out laughter in a group will eventually lead to genuine laughter, which is contagious, because the brain simply cannot differentiate between real and fake laughter. (More information on Dr. Kataria’s studies and findings can be found here).

This, Leonard explained, produces mental benefits because it boosts real endorphins, elevates the mood, increases social interaction, and ultimately lowers depression and anxiety.

Deep-breathing from the diaphragm deepens the physical benefits of Laughter Yoga by strengthening your core, much like traditional yoga training.

Leonard then asked us to practice some moves with her. At this point, any doubters in the room would have been immediately convinced of the benefits of group laughter.

Between the silly and child-like poses, which had names like ‘laughing into your cell phone,’ ‘drinking milk,’ ‘looking at your credit card bill,’ and ‘laughing for no reason,’ and the side-splitting sounds of clapping to the sing-song rhythm of ‘hoho hahaha’ and ‘yay yay yay,” we were all buckled over with laughter. It is no wonder that, as Leonard said “many people find it weird at first.”

I myself stayed seated while the other women partook so that I could take notes, and I could feel the giggles rising to my chest. Leonard told us, “you can’t be an adult in this class!”

Sounds simple enough to me.

And the best part? All the while, you are burning as many calories as walking, lowering your risk for high blood pressure, and relaxing your entire body.

The energy increase in the room, as well as the joking and laughter from woman to woman, and the fact that you don’t need any exercise equipment – “you just have to show up” –  proved to me exactly why Laughter Yoga clubs are opening everywhere around the world right now.

And Allyne Leonard will be the first to offer this class to seniors in the Sault.

Pre-registration is required for the 30 minute classes, which will take place every Monday for four weeks starting on February 26th at the Senior Citizens Drop-In Centre.

Leonard has hopes that she will be able to do additional sessions after this one, and that she will be able to teach this exercise in other institutions who could really benefit from it, including schools, jails, and hospitals.

To learn more or to sign up, please call the Senior Centre at 705-254-6474 or visit their webpage.