Body Mind Spirit

by Dr. Charlene Schultz

The Lakeside Laughter Club: Laughter Yoga

The first official Laughter Club was formed in 1995 when cardiologist Madan Kataria gathered a small group of people for a “Laughter Yoga Workout” in a park in Mumbai, India. Since that time, over 6,000 Laughter Clubs have sprung up in 60 countries around the world. Media coverage has included programs on CNN, NBC, CBS, the BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Deutsche Welle.

Articles have appeared in publications such as Time Magazine, Science Daily, the Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times and the Daily Telegraph, just to mention a few. Today, Laughter Yoga is being practiced in parks, on beaches, in wellness centers, hospitals, cancer and cardiac rehabilitation facilities, schools, retirement homes, nursing homes, corporations, and even prisons.

Contributing to the popularity of the Laughter Yoga movement has been the growing body of scientific evidence documenting the incredible physical/mental/emotional benefits of laughter. Medical researchers have discovered that laughter unleashes complex biochemical and physiological reactions which have health-enhancing effects on virtually every cell in our bodies.

In addition to providing instant stress relief, laughter has a positive impact on the lungs, the digestive system, the immune system, the brain, and the cardiovascular system. It strengthens the heart, promotes circulation, lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol. Because laughter releases the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals, Laughter Yoga is being used in the treatment of depression and anxiety as well as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Results have included increased mental clarity, improved focus and memory, enhanced creativity, higher energy levels, and an increasingly positive outlook on life combined with improved levels of self-confidence, self-esteem, and overall well-being.

Most of Laughter Yoga’s gentle exercises are done with participants standing and moving around. No special equipment is required. Laughter Yoga can also be done while sitting in a chair or wheelchair. Gentle stretching and deep breathing are combined with playful interactive laughter games and exercises to stimulate various energy centers in the body and to “prime the laughter pump.” Since it has been documented that the positive physical, mental and emotional benefits take place whether the laughter is feigned or genuine, everyone benefits, even while “faking it.”

Laughter clubs are open to people of all ages and abilities. Participants in multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-generational laughter clubs around the world have found that laughter promotes positive, supportive, non-judgmental human connection and that laughter is, indeed, “the shortest distance between two people.”

Observing a Laughter Club in action, it’s hard to believe such zany exercises could possibly have such a wide range of benefits. We are taught that in order to improve our health and well-being we have to “work at” it. But medical researchers have confirmed that we can also “play at” improving our health and our lives. In fact, the cardiovascular benefits of 10 minutes of laughter have been found to equal 30 minutes of jogging! Regular “laughter workouts” even firm the abdominal muscles and burn calories, thus promoting weight loss!

And, as if all these benefits were not enough, researchers studying longevity have found that there is, indeed, truth to the old Norwegian proverb: “He who laughs, lasts!” But whether or not laughter adds years to our life, it is certainly true that laughter adds life to our years! We invite you to come out and play with us and experience Laughter Yoga for yourself!

The Lakeside Laughter Club meets for a 30-45 minute session of Laughter Yoga every Wednesday at 5 PM on the sandy beach behind the Nueva Posada Hotel in Ajijic. Those unable to stand are welcome to bring a beach chair or to sit on the nearby wall. The beach is also wheelchair accessible. There is no set fee. Contributions are voluntary. Half of the amount donated by participants is used to support the work of Cruz Roja Chapala .

For information please contact Dr. Charlene Schultz at 766-0884 or email Amara Brouwers, co founder of the Lakeside Laughter Club, can be reached at 766-6187.

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