The human body responds in amazing ways to the physical act of laughter. Laughter has been known to provide stress relief, stimulate the cardiovascular system, and even aid muscle relaxation, to name a few. Wishing to bring these physical benefits to his patients, Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, developed what is known today as Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga is best described as an exercise that uses laughter as an excuse for deep breathing. It’s a time to put aside any other obligations and breathe, thus activating natural relaxation responses in the body. Since its development in 1995, Laughter Yoga has increased in popularity and spread to over 72 countries where it’s practiced today.
Lisa Kinderman, a local clinical psychologist, picked up the practice in the winter of February 2009 by attending certification training in Chicago led by Sebastien Gendry, a student of Dr. Kataria. She enjoyed the weekend so much that she went back for a second training weekend with her mother. Since her initial course, she has been offering Laughter Yoga classes periodically in the C-U area, including at the university. Most recently, Amara Yoga & Arts has been building community through free community Laughter Yoga classes offered every first Friday of the month in conjunction with Urbana First Fridays.
For those unfamiliar, the practice often brings about a curiosity as well as hesitation, but Lisa invites anyone who feels this way to give it a try and decide based on their own experiences. “It’s ok to feel like you’re going outside your comfort zone. It’s ok to go at your own pace or step aside and pause if something is uncomfortable,” she often reminds her students. The practice is not about being silly but to allow the natural expression of connection and joy.
Each class begins by explaining the practice’s history and some basic guidelines for a safe and comfortable practice. What follows is a series of around 20 different simulated laughter exercises, enhanced with gentle moving and breathing. What Lisa describes as a domino effect of empathic connections ensues, inspiring one another to laugh, coming and going in waves.
Lisa encourages anyone with interest to try Laughter Yoga, and to experience the mood-changing benefits.
“The Laughter Yoga practice shows that emotional response can follow behavior. You don’t have to feel like laughing to come to class, and then this wonderful thing happens: you feel great because of doing the practice.”
Students of all ages can practice Laughter Yoga. The next free community class will be offered at Amara Yoga & Arts on May 5th from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Lisa Kinderman’s clinical psychology private practice is located on Green Street in Urbana. To browse other unique offerings at Amara Yoga & Arts, see their schedule of workshops and events here.