Oklahoma Outreach Sober School students embrace laughter yoga

Students at the Oklahoma Outreach Sober School say laughter yoga class is a fun way to relieve stress. Instructors hope it might help diffuse temptation in the future.
BY TRICIA PEMBERTON Published: November 18, 2010

Maybe laughter really is the best medicine.

Tyler, 17, a student at the Oklahoma Outreach Sober School, said he always feels happier after the 20-minute laughter yoga class he participates in each Monday and Thursday at the school. This week during class, Tyler and fellow students pretended to participate in various sports, such as skateboarding and martial arts, all while laughing. They did various stretches and clapping exercises, winding down with meditation. Throughout the exercises, they worked to maintain eye contact, to smile, to affirm each other.

Tyler's laughter looked genuine. A dimple began to show, then his face got red, finally, he was almost doubled over from a hearty belly laugh.

“I think it's pretty fun,” he said. “It's something different. And it's always good to try something new. It's just so silly. It adds fun in the day and relieves stress.”

Tyler said he might even try using laughter as a diffuser in the future if he's in a situation where he's tempted to do drugs or drink alcohol. Students at the private Sober School are recovering from drug or alcohol addictions. The school, which asks that the last name of its students not be used, allows them to finish high school by teaching them Web-based classes. Currently, there are six students enrolled.

Laughter yoga instructor Ellen Mercer said Tyler's response is exactly what she's hoping for in teaching the students at the school.

“In a group like this, where they're focused on staying away from anything that could be addictive, laughter itself is addictive. Maybe it can become a substitute for the addictive behavior,” she said. “Laughter can diffuse the situation and it gives them another tool to use.”

Mercer teaches laughter yoga classes in various venues across the metro area.

She said the mission of laughter yoga founder Madan Kataria was to spread peace and joy throughout the world. But the technique also has other benefits, she said.

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