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.
Mercer said sessions should last at least 20 minutes, but longer classes allow for more development in other areas such as new exercises and guided
Barker said one of her favorite exercises is Calcutta, “a rhythmic breathing when you push the air down and out.”
“It actually really gets your blood going,” Barker said. “Everybody gets exhausted afterward because it takes so much energy to push out. I think it generates energy. It's more like an aerobic work out
Mercer said some benefits of laughter yoga include a better immune system, lower blood pressure, cleared sinuses and improved breathing and brain function.
Becoming a certified laughter yoga instructor requires training, Mercer said. Between 12 to 14 hours are spent in a classroom as an instructor shares videos of techniques, foundation exercises and advice for creating personal exercises.
Oklahoma City resident and certified yoga instructor Pete Fredrick said he became involved with laughter yoga about two years ago after his friend mentioned it. Fredrick said he attends two weekly laughter yoga sessions.
Fredrick said he uses laughter yoga for stress management, and it helps him put things into perspective.
“I think we're all just too tense because of 24/7 whatever,” Fredrick said. “If you could de-stress somehow, you would be a better person, and how you react to other people.”
See a video from the laughter yoga class.