Move Over Downward Facing Dog; Laughter Yoga Lifts the Spirit

Relatively young practice uses laughter to bring positivity.

DULUTH, Minn.- They say laughter is the best medicine, well at the Lake Superior Interfaith Community Church in East Hillside, one group is putting that to the test and getting some pretty hilarious results.

“When we start laughing we can’t stop,” said Laughter Yoga Leader Sue Brewer.

If you stop in and wonder what’s so funny, don’t worry, you didn’t miss the joke. “A lot of people, it’s out of their comfort zone to laugh out loud,” Brewer said. “For no reason.”

This group is splitting their sides for mental health.

“If you’re stuck in the angry, fearful, sad, guilt-ridden, fear ridden emotions that they just perpetuate each other, if you get out of that and you get up into joy, and peace, you’re on your way to feeling better about yourself,” the Laughter Yoga Leader said.

Jessica Neiding brought Laughter Yoga to Duluth in 2013, and soon after she encouraged Brewer to become certified down in Minneapolis.

But the practice’s roots go all the way back to India in the 1990s, and a man named Dr. Madan Kataria.

“He was a medical doctor and trying to help his patients and himself and he was researching laughter, cause y’know laughter is the best medicine,” said Neiding. “He decided to go to his local Mumbai park and I guess he got a few willing participants.”

“Within a couple weeks there were about 50 participants.”

While the group here is no where near that large, they take the practice to different clinics and churches in the Northland. In May as part of Mental Health Awareness month, they’ve been asked to come to St. Luke’s for the third year in a row.

All to spread awareness of what cracking up can do.

“Laughing releases seratonin, dopamine, endorphins,” Brewer said. “All those feel-good chemicals,” replied Neiding.

Chemicals that have had surprising effects on those with mental and physical disabilities.

“My mother had Alzheimer’s, so watching her deteriorate and watching the positivity she had when she started clapping, when I started laughing with her, I was brought to tears. Happy tears,” said Brewer.

While you won’t see any downward facing dogs here, the yoga aspect is the way participants breathe in, and out.

“With the daily shallow breathing that we do we have Carbon Dioxide down there,” she said. “So it gets rid of that, gets rid of carbon dioxide because we breathe out our air. And we bring in fresh oxygen to every single organ.”

Their ultimate goal is to make the world a little more peaceful and fun.

“The more people that we can get raising their vibration, their emotional well-being up to the level of laughter and happiness and joy, the more laughter and happiness and joy will be coming back to us,” said Brewer.

Just a little bit of laughter, to liven up your life.

“We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh,” Neiding said.

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