Imagine a wellness program that requires you to laugh heartily. That's what happens when Patty Darcy of Largo gathers a group to practice "laughter yoga." Darcy, 64, said laughter yoga promotes better sleep, lowers stress and is backed by research. She took a few moments last week to explain some details about the health program that has become her passion.
1What is laughter yoga? Unlike Hatha yoga, the emphasis is not on poses or postures but on breathing. Laughter exercises create deep breathing. The deep breathing releases endorphins and suppresses stress hormones. It's inner jogging for your organs. Using laughter as an exercise tool, it's a cardiovascular and wellness program. There are more than 5,000 laughter clubs worldwide.
2What would we expect in a laughter yoga class? There are activities to cultivate childlike playfulness. It combines techniques for laughter movements with mild stretching and deep-breathing exercises. We do some role play and improvisation techniques. When we do our exercises and say "ha-ha-ha" and "ho-ho-ho,'' we forcefully push the air out and the deep inhale happens automatically. You can do it seated if needed and you never push beyond where you are comfortable. I've had participants as young as 3 and as old as 93.
3Will we feel silly? At first there might be self-consciousness. The magic is the moment when you say 'what the heck, they're all doing it,' and you let go and let yourself laugh. You don't even need to have a sense of humor. The practice of laughing changes our ability to laugh and the group process is magic for helping us laugh.
4What got you started with laughter yoga? I've meditated for many years. My son, Thomas, had a traumatic brain injury and cannot focus to meditate. I thought there had to be another way for him to get the benefits of meditation. Then I saw an Oprah show that had a clip of a laughter yoga class. It was a riot. I knew I had found my answer. I trained to become a group leader and then a laughter yoga teacher.
5How has laughter yoga changed your life? This is a life-changing experience for me. I'm changing from a very serious, stressed caregiver and advocate to a fun-filled, happy person. I want to do what I love and uplift others with laughter. Someday I want to be 93 and known as the Largo Laughter Yoga Lady. The best response to life is laughter.