Helen T. Whitley, Psychotherapist & clinical social worker USA : I was feeling very burned out in the summer of 2006, when I discovered this new form of body-mind fitness. To cope with my stress, I went to a peaceful yoga retreat in the mountains of North Georgia. After settling in, I looked at the class schedule and found a class on Laughter Yoga. Just seeing the name brought a smile to my face and I couldn’t wait to see what it was all about.
That day, I stumbled upon a novel way to reduce stress, improve my mood, and connect with others. The funny thing was I was the only person there for the class besides the teacher who smiled as she realized I was the only student. I must have laughed with her for about 45 minutes. We did laughter exercises, with deep breathing and stretching in between. My self-consciousness quickly faded away as the laughter connected us. After the exercise, she led me through Laughter Meditation. By the end of the session, I was crying with laughter, releasing what felt like years of pent-up stress in my body. I could hardly stop the giggles from flowing.
After the class, I wanted to learn more. I saw the global media footage that touched me deeply. I watched senior citizens; college students; cancer patients; and even blind, deaf, and mute children doing it. I was weeping as I saw the joy in their faces. I was simply amazed. I knew intuitively this was no coincidence that I came to this retreat. This was exactly what I needed in my life, personally and professionally. I knew it would be a fun way to combat the stress of my practice and get out of my head and back into my body.
As positive psychology gained more popularity and acceptance, I could see how Laughter Yoga fitted into this framework and could be on the cutting edge of wellness. My husband is a certified hypnotherapist and NLP Master Practitioner; it could also be a natural extension of his practice, too. I was very excited about this new way of infusing laughter into my own and other people’s lives. We both trained as leaders and when Dr. Kataria came to Miami, we completed our teacher training with like-minded people from all over the world. Connecting with others through laughter enabled me to relax and change my mood instantly.
My relationship with my husband was a bit strained back in 2006, but improved steadily the more we laughed together. We started a club right away and I noticed yet another great benefit- pain relief! At the time I had a knee injury that hurt constantly, except when I was laughing. Each week, at the end of the laughter session I noticed that the pain was gone! I know now that any time I am in pain, if I laugh for at just ten or fifteen minutes, the pain is alleviated. Laughter Yoga has also helped to diminish the social anxiety I had about speaking in front of groups.
I believe Laughter Yoga is the ultimate social interaction for good mental health. I continue to spread laughter in my role as a social worker. My goal is to keep the mission of health, joy and world peace in mind as I laugh. Laughing with people is the most rewarding way I can imagine spending my time. As we say enthusiastically in every Laughter Yoga session, “Very good, very good YEA!!!