Laughter yoga creates relaxing atmosphere

BY KRYSTLE WAGNER kwagner@opubco.com Published: July 5, 2011

Some parents bond with their children by taking fishing trips or going to the movies. Tina Barker bonds with her son, Avery, 11, by laughing.

The Oklahoma City residents practice laughter yoga together.

Laughter yoga combines traditional yoga breathing exercises with laughter, said Ellen Mercer, a certified laughter yoga teacher in Oklahoma City. Mercer said this form of yoga began in 1995 in India when Madan Kataria, a physician, began researching the benefits of laughter. Mercer said 60 to 65 countries worldwide practice this alternative exercise.

“I think it's good for him to hear his mom laugh, because just in your normal day, you don't laugh as much as a mom,” Barker said. “I know here, he was responding to my laughter because he doesn't hear it that often.”

During the sessions, participants begin by sitting in a loose circle. After an introduction, they push the chairs aside, and warm-up exercises begin.

No humor required

One warm-up exercise includes saying “ooh, ahh, hee” and clapping. Throughout the session, eye contact and childlike playfulness are encouraged, Mercer said.

“It's a concept where anyone can laugh without relying on humor, comedy or sense of humor,” Mercer said. “We use laughter as an exercise to bring about health, joy and world peace. You can't be mad when you're laughing.”

After warm-up exercises are finished, the instructor explains the next exercise, and participants walk around the room and make eye contact with one another as they engage in the exercise. Mercer said laughter during the classes usually becomes real and often contagious.

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