I work as a Board Certified Chaplain at a major Cancer Research Hospital; the university of Texas at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; in Houston, Texas. I am also a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher through Dr. Madan Kataria’s International School of Laughter Yoga. As a Chaplain, I provide pastoral and spiritual support and care to patients and caregivers dealing with loss, grief, death, & dying. On occasions, I am with patients and caregivers during some of the most challenging times in their lives. When I discovered Laughter Yoga during a 2-day training workshop in Dallas, Texas to become a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, I thought. “Wow!” “This is great!” “What a wonderful gift to bring back to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center!”
Upon my return to Houston, I began offering Laughter Yoga Sessions to patients, caregivers, and staff. The immediate feedback was very positive! Soon, I began offering Laughter Yoga Sessions at the Place of Wellness at the hospital on a regular basis for patients and caregivers. I would like to share a story about how Laughter Yoga began to impact the lives of patients and caregivers who attend the Laughter Yoga sessions.
It was a typical day, working in the hospital, seeing my patients, attending meetings, and handling administrative tasks. As the end of the business day neared, it was time to change gears and head over to the Place of Wellness to lead my Laughter Yoga Session. When I arrived, there was a group of about 5 or 6 people waiting. Some were patients and a few were caregivers. After an initial introduction and a brief history of Laughter Yoga, I went over the five basic ground rules and began to lead the group through a series of rhythmic clapping, simulated laughter exercises, and gentle stretching and breathing exercises.
The group began to hum along with playful laughter and infectious humor. Smiles, laughter, and levity began to bubble up and overflow within the group and around the room in a wave of pure laughter energy. After about 20 minutes of play, I calmed the group down and lead them into a Laughter Meditation. Eyes are close, breathing is slowed and soon, snickers, giggles, and laughter erupt throughout the room.
I end the session with a series of positive affirmations. The group energy is high, lively, people in attendance report that they feel refreshed, relaxed, and rejuvenated. All in all, it’s been a good Laughter Yoga session. I dismiss the group and everyone begins to collect their belongings as it is time to leave the building.
As I make my way back to the main hospital, a married couple and their friend tag along beside me. We chit chat and they continue to talk about how much they enjoyed the Laughter Yoga Session. Upon entering the main hospital, their friend; a woman who appeared to be in her late fifties; turns to me and says, “Chaplain, you know, my husband died a year ago from cancer and I have not laughed since he died.” I stop to give her my full attention. She continues, “If fact, I did not know if I could laugh again.”
Now; mind you; she had just spent the last 30 minutes “laughing her head” off during a Laughter Yoga Session.
I just looked at her and said, “Well, you’ve still got it.”
She smiled and turned away to follow her friends.
I made my way back to my office to prepare to go home for the day.
As I made my way to my office, I thought to myself, “Yep, she’s still got it.”
“She’s still got her Laughter.”
“May we all rediscover ‘our Joy and our Laughter’ no matter what the loss.”