Laughter yoga, it’s hilarious. And maybe it’s not even yoga, exactly, but this is one of those times we’ll set aside strict definitions, because for these war veterans, laughter yoga is the best medicine around for stress-relief and inner happiness.
Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-GNY), the largest veteran outreach and provider of residential services for veterans in NYC, started bringing laughter yoga to residents back in September and have seen improvements in overall health and mood.
Laughing yoga instructor Jeannette Watson Sanger volunteers her time and sunny disposition to bring a combination of group laughter, breathing exercises, stretching and rhythmic clapping to about 174 mostly male vets in one of VOA’s facilities.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Sanger, told NY’s Daily News, adding that laughter yoga “fosters happiness and clears negativity.”
This can be vital for vets who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless or may be struggling with depression or PTSD. On the physical side, Sanger claims that just 10 minutes of laughing yoga can equal 20 minutes of jogging and can be quite a workout, especially for the lungs (not to mention the belly and face – oh, that wonderful, joyful burn!)
“It is very healthy — laughing engages 85% of your lungs,” Sanger says. “In classes we make a commitment to joy. The idea is to fake it till you make it!”
We’ve heard that one before. And it reminds us how powerful the mind-body connection can be when we consciously choose to feel happiness. Plus, all those brain chemicals get in on the action and before you know it, the body “pretending” to be happy becomes actual, real happiness. That sounds a bit like yoga to us, and sort of like a little sutra [2.33] that goes: Pratipaksha Bhavana – translated roughly to “if you’re thinking of crappy thoughts, think good ones instead.” Think the opposite. Be the opposite. And of course, a little laughter never hurt anyone.
So here you go…just doing our part:
Yoga what it takes to be comedian!
Well, maybe not…practice, practice, practice!