Sunday, June 28, 2009


Cedar Valley club uses laughter yoga to relax, energize and heal

That's the title of an article that appeared in the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier newspaper on Sunday, June 28, 2009. It was in the "It's All Good" section. This club was started by some of my laughter students and I am so excited to see how they are spreading the joy. Below is the article by Nancy Justis.

CEDAR FALLS—Laughter really can be the best medicine for what ail you. Just ask members of the Cedar Valley Laughter Club.

"You can't be thinking about the future, or worrying about the past when you are laughing," said Eliz Guyer, one of five local residents who a year ago trained to be a laughter yoga leader. "It's a great exercise to get you to slow down, put things in perspective. You laugh at things more. If you can't control it, you can laugh about it or you can cry about it."

Rick and Bea Koontz first became aware of laughter yoga in 2001 when it was demonstrated at an elderhostel they were attending. Six years later Bea became acquainted with Jen Christiason, a former college friend of the Rev. Laura Gentry of Lansing. Gentry leads the Lansing Laughter Club. She trained under a medical doctor in India, who along with his wife, developed the exercise tha combines laughter and deep breathing techniques to maximize the benefits of a workout.

In early 2008, the Cedar Falls Library hosted more than 100 people for a demonstration by Gentry. Shortly thereafter, Bea, Christiason, Guyer, Kate Hall and Cyndy Franklin participated in a two-day training session to become laughter yoga leaders. In June of last year, they held their first session for local enthusiasts.

"You know when you go out to eat with friends and you laugh and you know how good you feel afterwards?" said Bea. "It's not that people in our group don't recognize awful things or haven't gone through awful things. Good and bad things come from that place where you don't really have words to put around it. Laughter comes out of the same place. It can both heal and energize."

The club holds three 10-12-week sessions during a year. Participants come from all walks of life. Some come on their lunch break; some come directly from work; some are retired; others work in high-stress jobs.

The summer session began June 8 and meets at 12:15 p.m. for a half hour each Monday at the Satori Hospital gazebo, weather permitting. The fall session meets September through November and the winter session January through April. At a recent gathering, 15 people were in attendance, including Guyer's 8-year-old daughter and two first timers who joined regular Ruth Hovelson.

Retiree Kate Nimrod has been one of the most consistent members over the last year. "I like to laugh ad have a good time," she said. "It's helpful. I like being with people."

The 30 minutes begin with warm-up breathing and stretching exercises; move into various laughter exercises, including chants, cheers and songs; and concludes with additional calming breathing techniques.

Guyer says it can be difficult in the beginning to laugh naturally. "At first it felt fake or forced. It didn't feel genuine. Your body doesn't know the difference between fake laughter and real laughter. You get all the same endorphins, lowering of your blood pressure. After awhile it turns into real laughter."

Participants have felt a definite improvement in their daily demeanor. Bea said she is more aware of the present and is enjoying life. "By doing this weekly, it's that constant reminder to lighten up, to energize. It keeps me aware that there is joy and we should cultivate it." Rick says he sleeps better.

Margaret Shay said laughter yoga is a different kind of exercise. "I feel energized," she said. "You can do it on a regular basis, feel the benefits of it, meet new people. It's amazing when you do it for half an hour."

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