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  • Writer's picturelindsayb222

Laughter Yoga

The Best Medicine?

Well, sometimes!

All of you volunteers out there know the feeling. After coping with an

insane amount of pressure - whether it’s for family, for work, for

charities, for church, for neighbours, for caring responsibilities or for all

six at once - it can sometimes be tempting for us to volunteers to just

pull the duvet over our heads and hide! Katy Williams, however (local

Occupational Therapist and Laughter Yoga expert), showed up to teach

us some new tricks to relieve the stress and clear the mind.


On 27 October, a group of volunteers from Tyneside Welcomes joined Katy

online. This was the first of our bespoke training sessions that have

graciously been funded by the Community Foundation in Gosforth, to whom

we owe many thanks. Although at first it seemed strange to giggle at other

faces on zoom, Katy soon had us laughing, roaring, snorting, cackling and

shaking with suppressed laughter as we learned more about ourselves and

the science behind Laughter Yoga.


Laughter Yoga was initially developed and created by a doctor in India. Since

then, laughter yoga has spread like wildfire and is now practiced in 70+

countries.


A typical class includes: clapping & chanting, laughter exercises, stretching

interspersed with yogic breathing exercises and laughter meditation. One of

the meditation exercises includes around 10 minutes of uncontrolled,

uninhibited laughter. Katy explained that this can be a very powerful

experience, proving to be mood altering and even life altering for some.


Sessions can be held with persons of all ages, from young children through to

more senior groups. Individuals with early onset dementia / cognitive

impairment, or persons with various disabilities, learning difficulties or sensory

impairments are able to enjoy and benefit from laughter yoga. In our

particular session, we found that translated instructions work just as well!

Laughter is a universal language, we are all emotive and experiential beings;

with each of us being able to laugh and experience joy.


Laughter Yoga is beneficial to both our minds and our bodies. Laughter has

scientifically been shown to increase the endorphins in our body giving us the

'feel good factor'. Laughter reduces stress hormones (cortisol) and increases

our heart rate and blood supply to our bodies.


Laughter Yoga is so-called as it incorporates child like behaviour and laughter

exercises with deep yogic breathing (pranayama) which provides our bodies

with the much needed oxygen and helps us in getting rid of toxins.


We generally engage in 'shallow breathing' where around 75% of residual

stale air is left in the body. By engaging in laughter yoga we use 'pranayama

breathing' (yogic breathing) whereby we exhale for a longer period than we

exhale. This was not something that we needed to focus on whilst completing

the session as extended laughter aids this process. By engaging in 'deep

breathing' (pranayama) we flushed out toxins and replenished our bodies with

fresh air. Fresh oxygen is essential for human life and to prevent illness.


The body cannot tell the difference between real / genuine or fake laughter...

therefore we still get the same benefits whether the laughter is real or not.

Fake laughter will generally lead to real laughter for most people as being

surrounded by the sound of laughter and smiling faces proves itself to be

contagious.


To take part in Laughter Yoga is to allow joy into our life!

We are all born joyful, however as adults we seem to need a reason to laugh

- something to laugh at whether this be in good humour, or at someone's

expense. We often hold back laughter for fear of otherwise being

inappropriate and are conditioned to laugh only in certain situations from later

childhood years - these traits are ever more overpowering by adulthood.


By completing Laughter Yoga we once again give ourselves permission to

laugh for no reason and just to feel joyful. Regular Laughter Yoga creates

new neuro-pathways in our brain which mean that we find it easier to laugh in

general and to enjoy life in abundance.


Personally, I found the part where we shouted at each other through laughter

(no words but heavy frowns, waggling fingers and all) - and then forgave each

other through laughter before waggling our fingers back towards ourselves

and laughing at our own follies - to be the most transformative. For a small

charity like Tyneside Welcomes, Laughter Yoga turned out to be a practical,

effective way of helping volunteers to address stress, burn-out and fatigue.


Laughter Yoga is generally practised in groups where laughter is easily

brought about by eye contact, child like playfulness and laughter

exercises. We did ours online, but Katy tells me that she is also available for

face-to-face classes. The feedback scores were all ‘excellent’ for this event:

Laughter Yoga comes highly recommended.


Katy Williams is available at Laughter Love, https://laughterlove.weebly.com/

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