Laughter provides many benefits

Ben Sadkowski/Staff Writer

When the image of yoga comes up, most commonly the image of people contorting their bodies into fantastic shapes through insane flexibility comes into people’s minds. However, a far more unique form of yoga has recently come into practice called laughter yoga.

Marie Stigliani, a local trainer and practitioner in laughter yoga, described its origins.

“In the mid- ‘90s there was a doctor in India named Dr. Kataria, and he had read all the recent literature about therapeutic benefits of laughter. In India, the people who are most interested in their health would go to the parks in the morning. He would gather a few people and they would tell jokes for a half hour.

After two weeks they ran out of jokes, so he went back and thought about laughing but without jokes and he made up techniques about laughing without jokes. His wife was a yoga instructor and so he created laughing interspersed with deep breathing,” Stigliani said.

Stigliani went on to describe her own training in laughter yoga.

“I was trained by a woman named Laura Gentry. She lives in Lansing, Iowa, and was trained by Dr. Kataria, and she’s trained many people in the Midwest,” Stigliani said.

Stigliani went on to describe the physical aspects of laughing.

“When you laugh, you do deep abdominal breathing just as in yoga. Your body can’t tell the difference between fake and real laughter, so you can fake it until you make it,” she said.

“There’s a Cedar Valley Laughter Club that meets once a week for half an hour. There’s no charge. It’s open to anyone. There’s no training required, no special equipment. We come together and we laugh for half an hour,” she said. According to Marie, the laughter club here in the Cedar Valley currently meets in a room at the Cedar Falls Public Library.

But what are the benefits of laughing, be it fake or real? Despite whatever doubts may exist, there is no problem in finding a plethora of benefits brought about by laughter. A study at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, Calif., showed that laughter increases the number of white blood cells in humans, thus protecting us from disease. At the same time, laughter reduces stress by lowering levels of a stress hormone in our body, cortisol.

Perhaps the most interesting use of laughter therapy became most predominantly known in the movie Patch Adams, starring famous actor Robin Williams. In it, Adams, a doctor, uses humor to treat sick patients. Although this occurred in a movie, the real-life medical benefits of laughter are not to be ignored. Studies conducted at Arizona State University have shown that through laughter, patients are better able to manage and conquer pain.

While I myself can’t help but feel a bit awkward when trying to fake-laugh after a long day at school, when Marie leans over the dinner table and starts to laugh at me, I can’t help but join in.

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