By Becky Hefel, Freelance Writer
If laughter is the best medicine then Laughter Yoga instructor Pastor Laura Gentry is a very healthy woman. She doesn’t tell jokes or do stand up comedy but her classes indeed create laughter.
Once a week, for thirty minutes, Pastor Laura leads participants at Lansing’s Laughter Club in laughter exercise and deep breathing. She also takes her laughter on the road to hospitals, businesses, schools, churches and other facilities. “When you laugh with someone you connect,” says Pastor Laura. “Laughter is contagious, it makes you feel good, is exercise and just plain fun.”
Laughter Yoga originated with Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from Mumbai, India. He stumbled upon the research proving that laughter decreases stress hormones, improves immune systems and boosts endorphins, the brain chemicals responsible for positive moods.
Field-testing the effects of laughter upon himself, Dr. Kataria started a small laughter club with just five people in 1995, which has now grown to 5000 clubs in 55 countries. Laughter Yoga is based on two principles: You can laugh for no reason, your body can’t tell the difference between real laughter and fake laughter.
Pastor Laura first became aware of Laughter Yoga from a documentary. Later, as she was writing an article for a national women's publication about the benefits of living a joy-filled life, she decided to research it further. This took her to California where she studied under Dr. Kataria and received her teaching certification.
Gentry especially likes working with children. “They respond so quickly and without self-consciousness,” she said. “But the beauty of Laughter Yoga is that we all become childlike and develop a sense of joy within.”
Gentry said she has had many positive results from teaching these classes because everyone can do the ‘exercises’ and feel the immediate benefit from them. “There is no age limit to laughter,” she explains. She goes on to further explain some of the health benefits, “Studies have recently shown that laughter can reduce the risk of heart disease by fifty percent and one minute of Laughter Yoga raises your heart rate to an equivalent of ten minutes on an exercise bike.”
In April, Pastor Laura took part in an Oprah show presentation of Laughter Yoga with other instructors from Chicago and was recently invited to be part of a peace- making conference in Jordan for the millions of Iraqi refugees fleeing their war torn country.
Pastor Laura has many local connections, her mother is from Guttenberg and she was ordained at St. John’s Lutheran church as well as officiated there for her sister’s wedding. She loves Guttenberg and has many fond memories of visiting her grandparents here as a child. She now makes her home in Marquette with her husband, William.
If you would like to find out how to sponsor or attend a Laughter Yoga class or become an instructor, check out Pastor Laura’s ad in this week’s Press. She is a delightful, energetic young woman who inspires people to bring fun and joy to everyday life.
Pastor Laura Gentry definitely practices what she preaches.
Published in the Guttenberg Press
August 29, 2007
To find other articles about the Laughter Yoga work of Laura Gentry, visit the Press & Testimonials page.