Laughing your way to better health
It seems many people are under more general stress these days on multiple levels – the pace of daily life, the global pandemic, political unrest, and the economy – so who couldn’t use a little laughter in their lives, especially around April Fool’s Day? United Active Living is regularly incorporating Laughter Yoga into their program schedules.
Laughter Yoga doesn’t require headstands or other sometimes difficult physical positions. It’s a series of gentle movement and breathing exercises designed to stimulate laughter and bring more joy into our lives. There are no jokes involved, but rather it’s a blend of deep breathing, gentle stretching, laughter exercises, and playful games and activities.
“I started doing Laughter Yoga in 2001 after a serious car accident that left me with a broken back and paralysis from the waist down,” said Cheryl Oberg, who shares her gift of humour and laughter at conferences as a keynote speaker, with families and children in hospitals, seniors communities, corporate workplaces, schools, college, and universities. “It took me three years to recover, and I used laughter yoga to help me manage my pain.”
Laughter yoga was created in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria, a doctor in India who wanted to find an alternative way of treating his patients, many of whom were suffering from stress-related illnesses.
“The whole point is to get more oxygen into our bodies,” said Cheryl, who works with other laughter facilitators through Calgary Laughter Yoga. “As we get older, we are less mobile, and getting more oxygen improves our mood and reduces stress and pain.” She likens it to a child’s teeter-totter. Fear, anger, and pain are on one side, joy, laughter, and play on the other. The two sides can’t exist at the same time, so by increasing our joy, laughter, and play, negative emotions are reduced.
Cheryl says a simple smile can work wonders. “Walk into a room with a smile on your face, and it becomes contagious. Everyone begins to feel better. In my sessions, I will demonstrate a few exercises, and the participants follow along. At first, the laughter may be forced, but eventually, it becomes real and the whole room is laughing.”
“I think as we get older we have to give ourselves permission to laugh out loud. Children do it naturally, but adults control themselves more. We should open ourselves to more opportunities to laugh. There are no downsides, so try to find something every day that brings a smile or laughter into your life.”
Photos by United Active Living. Videos by Sherana Productions.
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