The healing power of laughter

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The healing power of laughter

Yoga technique helps participants stay healthy, positive
Justin Paprocki
jpaprocki@islandpacket.com
843-706-8143
Published Tuesday, August 23, 2011   |  568 Words  |  

Everybody's laughing, but no one has told a joke. It goes to show: Laughter can be so much more than just a response to something funny.

Dancing Dogs Yoga in Beaufort recently introduced laughter yoga into its schedule. The basis of the practice is that a good laugh can have spiritual, mental and physical benefits, even if the laughter is self-induced.

But rather than just standing around giggling for an hour, the classes are organized in the same sense that a yoga class is organized. Dancing Dogs instructor Brittney Goesslin crafts her classes around a set of organized techniques. Students rhythmically laugh in a "ho-ho, ha-ha" pattern for exercise, for example. Goesslin also incorporates deep-breathing or stretching techniques from other yoga classes.

Goesslin read about laughter yoga in a Time magazine article, and it immediately struck her and studio owner Shelley Lowther as a unique class that could draw in new members. Goesslin attended a weekend training program in Atlanta and returned to start the program in October.

The class has gathered as many as
15 laughers. At first, they come a bit unsure. It's not normal to be gathered in a yoga room laughing, after all.

"It's still new to the area, so people are getting used to it," she said. "And it's still very young, in general."

Laughter yoga started in India in 1995 when a family physician, Dr. Madan Kataria, wrote an article about the old phrase, "Laughter is the best medicine." He gathered a group in a park in Mumbai. They told jokes. And laughed.

Getting a boost from the early morning chuckling, they continued to meet, even when they started to run out of good jokes. They started again, this time pretending to laugh. But the sheer absurdity of unprompted laughter caused real laughs.

Kataria, along with his wife, a yoga practitioner, soon developed a set of exercises to make his invention more than just group giggling.

Incorporating ideas from traditional Hasya Yoga, a more formal practice was born. Today, about 6,000 laughter yoga clubs exist in 60 countries, according to Kataria's Laughter Yoga International.

While laughter yoga might seem like just a good time, the health benefits aren't any joke.

The Mayo Clinic lists a bevy of benefits to laughing. Laughter lowers blood pressure, increases the flow of blood to the heart and pumps more oxygen into the body. It can help prevent high blood pressure, strokes, arthritis and heart disease. It can also help fight stress, which has shown to be harmful to the body.

For Goesslin, the classes have even come to use for her personally. Her house burned down in June. She escaped unharmed, but everything was gone. Insurance is taking care of a lot, and she's getting back on her feet. But the whole situation has been one of the most stressful in her life. She needed a good laugh.

"(Laughter yoga) helped me not take life so seriously," she said. "It was just stuff that was lost in the fire. It wasn't life. It helps me stay positive."

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