Laughter Yoga for Eating Disorders


Sue Ansari CLYT USA : I had a call a couple of weeks ago, asking if I could sub for a counselor at an eating disorders clinic. Without a second thought, I agreed…nothing tough, piece of cake. She asked that I cover the topic of the Third Chakra and somehow link it with Laughter Yoga.

While researching, I learned that when the Third Chara is blocked or out of balance, one could experience digestive disorders, diabetes, hypoglycemia, weight problems, eating disorders, etc. Okay, but how to balance and unblock? The recommendation was to get moving in any way possible – exercise, dancing, jogging and finally, there it was, woohoo, laughing!

There were supposed to be six girls in the class, but only three showed up. All were very pretty, very young. As they straggled in, I cheerfully greeted each of them in exchange for barely audible responses. They sat down on their mats, took out notebooks and without a word, began writing with heads down, way down. Two were blond; one had long, dark hair. Of the three, the dark-haired girl’s head sunk the lowest – none of them would look at me when I began speaking. With heads hanging low, I did not impress these girls with any part of my intelligent rendition about the Third Chakra…they could care less. All I could think was how long would it take for the next 120 minutes to pass. My mind could not even begin to wrap itself around the possibility of laughter with these three morose individuals.

Since the Third Chakra is the center for personal empowerment, our “I can” center, I thought maybe an exercise in saying “I can” and really meaning it, might be good for a start….not even. Barely opening their mouths, very feeble “I can’s” dribbled out. Oh boy, this was really going to be fun.

Fortunately, I decided to bring music with me, so at this point, instead of plowing into clapping or greeting laughter, I decided to put on a 7-minute Turkish Belly Dancing number, asked them to stand, close their eyes and just shake from head to toe with the music. Half-way through, I asked them to bend at the waste, relax, breathe, stretch and then we went back to shaking. First accomplishment, they removed their heavy winter coats, but somehow I could not see those three girls getting one thing out of a laughter session.

Spontaneously, I asked them to sit down and decided to tell them my personal story of my own planned suicide that was thwarted by laughter several years ago. Amazing – suddenly, I had their attention. All heads were up – they were looking at me and one girl even commented! I talked to them about the benefits of laughter, how it not only changed my life, but also had literally saved it. I then told them, before even one laughter exercise had been attempted, that their assignment from me was to laugh every day for at least one minute for absolutely no reason. To my amazement, they all nodded their heads in agreement!

So, we began, slowly, painfully slow – Greeting Laughter was one step above morose. Milkshake Laughter, maybe a 2 out 10, but when I started with gibberish, they went wild! We huddled together and it just kept going – they loved it and they were smiling! The dark-haired girl kept sniffing her underarms and finally announced that she smelled awful, so we did Stinky Underarm Laughter – literally sniffed one another which they also thought was pretty hilarious.

Okay, the time was passing….a little better. More music, “Twist and Shout”….they did well with that, but the cherry on the top was Madan’s Grounding Dance. I had each girl take turns leading the group around the room, while chanting softly, “HoHo HaHa” and they loved it! Laughter meditation and guided imagery went well. I always end with my standard affirmations, “I love myself, I am wonderful, I am beautiful and I am soooooo sexy!” which brought forth full, toothy smiles, followed by a group hug, that broke off into individual ones as each of them quietly thanked me for coming. Who would have ever guessed?

Two of the girls were 20; the other, 22. All had severe eating disorders, one had been raped. Since I really have never done anything but a straight LY session at the clinic, I asked how their days were spent – one yoga class for one hour every morning and nothing but lectures the rest of the day. Repeatedly they told me how bored they were and how they did not know how they would get through the next six weeks of this program. One of the girls lamented that she was going to have to spend her 21st birthday there. The dark-haired girl, who had once been a model, told me she was basically homeless – when released from the program, she would have nowhere to go. The third girl was local, had lost her job because of her illness and had moved back with her parents. All of this I learned within a two-hour period from three girls who initially could not lift their heads off their chests. Wow, the power of love and laughter!