Providing the best medicine

Hillsdale naturopathic physician hosts Laughter Yoga sessions as part of Third Thursdays

HILLSDALE - Improving well-being with a good, old-fashioned belly laugh, Dr. Deborah McKay, a Hillsdale-based naturopathic physician, is hosting Laughter Yoga sessions led by instructor Kelly Hobson as part of the neighborhood's Third Thursday lineup of events.

Laughter Yoga is like its more traditional counterpart in that, during each one-hour session, an instructor leads a group through a series of exercises.

But, instead of a sun salutation or downward-facing dog, every posture in Laughter Yoga is meant to spark a belly laugh.

'People think it sounds a little strange, but it's a valid form of yoga,' McKay said.

To start, you 'introduce yourself to each other and, instead of talking, you laugh out loud and shake hands,' McKay said. 'It gets you going.'

After the laughter eventually dies down, the instructor then brings the group's attention together once again and starts in on another exercise, and so on.

'The breath work between the laughter exercises is the 'yoga' part. We are not adopting traditional yoga poses and laughing; we are doing laughter exercises as a group and doing some deep breathing in between,' Hobson said.

'There's a lot of role-playing and over-dramatizing and just purely silly stuff ,' McKay said. 'It's like being in preschool. It reminded me of my favorite kindergarten teacher.'

Hobson has received national certification to instruct Laughter Yoga, and McKay said she brings new exercises to the table with each session so that attendees never know what to expect.

'You'd never guess how many ways you can be silly,' McKay said. 'She's probably got a thousand different ways to make you laugh, and the thing is, there's a group dynamic, so people kind of bounce off of each other.'

And, McKay said the medical benefits to Laughter Yoga are indisputable.

Aside from exercising cheek and belly muscles, it provides a cardiovascular workout and releases endorphins.

'I knew it was going to happen, but when I experienced it myself, I was blown away,' she said of the effect of the endorphin release.

An increase of endorphins also improves the body's immune system, leaving it better equipped to fight off allergies and autoimmune disease and improving a person's emotional outlook and resiliency.

Hobson said Laughter Yoga is safe for people of all fitness levels and is especially beneficial for people who need to remain seated or are otherwise limited in their ability to exercise.

'It's good for you, but bottom line is it's so much fun,' McKay said.

McKay said she began hosting Laughter Yoga workshops because she herself was interested in the practice and its medical benefi ts and she was having trouble finding sessions to attend.

She's hosting a monthly session in conjunction with Hillsdale's Third Thursday events, offering visitors the opportunity to laugh for an hour as part of these after-hours festivities. The event falls on Oct. 20 this month.

She said floor space is limited, and so reservations are requested.

McKay's practice is located 1820 S.W. Vermont St., Suite G, in the Wilson Park Building. For more information about Dr. McKay's Third Thursday Laughter Yoga sessions and to make a reservation, call 503-549-5550.