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Laugh and the world laughs with you

Laughter Yoga is fun path to mental, physical health


SUBMITTED PHOTO - This happy scene from Laughter Yoga International Day exemplifies what laughter yoga is all about. There are now 8,000 laughter yoga clubs all over the world.

Laughter Yoga is no joke. Seriously.

Upon seeing the term for the first time, it is natural to assume that it’s a put-on, or at best something very, very silly. After all, society frowns on people standing around and laughing for no apparent reason.

But Andrea Crisp and Laura Lou Pape-McCarthy are not nuts. Sure, they do an extraordinary amount of laughing, but it is all in the cause of spreading the gospel of how laughing for laughing’s sake can make you feel better in every way. You may start out queasy, but you’ll end up happy.

That being the case, Laughter Yoga is coming to the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center on Jan. 11 with a workshop led by Pape-McCarthy, a certified Laughter Yoga instructor, who gives herself as a great example of what Laughter Yoga can do.

She said, “I’m much more relaxed at the end of the day, I’m more aware of my emotions and how and when my body reacts to them, and I’m more confident in the choices I make each day.

“Laughter Yoga keeps my body strong and healthy. It helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed by the world, so I can get on with doing the best I can while being true to myself.”

Laughter Yoga began about 20 years ago in India when a physician named Dr. Madan Kataria was seeking a better way than normal yoga to help his stressed out patients. After doing heaps of research he came up a solution: laughter.

This great movement started in a public park in Mumbai when Kataria and five patients gathered together with the purpose of laughing a lot. At first, this took the traditional form of telling jokes and funny stories. It worked so well that their little group grew to 50 people within a couple weeks.

Then, calamity struck. They ran out of good jokes.

The answer was more research. Kataria found that the body cannot differentiate between fake and genuine laughter. Evidence pointed to both kinds of laughter creating the same happy chemistry in the body. As with many great ideas, people were skeptical at first. When they first tried laughing at nothing, they felt dumb. But soon the make-believe laughs turned into real laughs and it was contagious. It was the birth of Laughter Yoga. Today there are 8,000 laughter clubs in 100 countries, and one of them is in Portland.

The godmother of Laughter Yoga in Portland is Andrea Crisp. When you call Crisp for the first time at Portland Laughter Yoga, you hear a long, hysterical laugh on the voice message. This can be alarming and disconcerting, just like trying Laughter Yoga for the first time. But if you stick with Crisp you will find a young woman seriously dedicated to helping people feel better in their hearts, minds and bodies.

“People think yoga is all about stretching,” Crisp said. “They think Laughter Yoga is weird or hard to do.”

But Crisp was looking for new ideas when she started her health coaching business in 2008, and she noticed an article about Laughter Yoga on a website.

“I asked, ‘What is this Laughter Yoga?’” Crisp said. “When I found out, I thought I needed to do it both as a health coach and my personal life. It would save me from the disorder of living. I got training in Laughter Yoga, and it was such a powerful experience.

“There was no laughter club in Portland, and I thought, ‘Gosh, maybe I should be the person who starts one.’ My fiancée thought I was crazy.

“I started the Hawthorne Laughter Club and it’s been a blast. Now there is a community of people I’ve trained, and Laughter Yoga is spreading over the Northwest.”

Crisp’s best disciple has been Pape-McCarthy and they are close friends and associates, sisters in laughter.

“When I started practicing LY once a week, I noticed right away that it felt great physically and uplifting emotionally,” Pape-McCarthy said. “I have known laughers that have overcome insomnia, chronic pain, depression, PTSD and others who have increased their quality of life after diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, Post-Polio Syndrome and more.”

At the ACC, Pape-McCarthy will be aiming her presentation right at some people who need it the most — caregivers. The workshop is part of the continuing Family Caregiver CSI (comfort, strength and inspiration) Program created by ACC program director Berta Derman, and from what she has learned about Laughter Yoga, Derman is confident it will be a real “stress buster” for caregivers. The first laugh will be the hardest. But then they get much easier.

“It may take a few minutes but you’ll end up really laughing,” Crisp said. “By the end of the session you’ll be feeling really good.”

To register for the Laughter Yoga workshop, call the ACC at 503-635-3758. The session is set from 1:30-3 p.m. Space is limited.

While caregivers are the primary target of the workshop, others interested in attending can call in and be placed on a waiting list. The ACC is located at 505 G Ave. in Lake Oswego.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or email cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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