Friday, January 6, 2012


The Cedar Rapids Gazette just ran an article about the laughing work I've been doing in Iowa and beyond. It's reprinted below. The link to it at the Gazette's site is:“ha-ha-ha-ho-ho-ho”-laughter-is-best-medicine/

“Ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho,” Laughter is Best Medicine

LANSING — “Ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho, hee, hee, hee.”

Laughing Laura Gentry greets everybody she meets in the same way.

“Hahaha” reads the license plate on her little blue Mini-Cooper S.

“Ha, ha, ha,” she begins every weekly session of the Lansing Laughter Club at Our Savior Lutheran Church where, at 41, she’s been pastor for ten years.

The laughter for Laura began in 2006. She has since spread it around the world, laughing on five continents with her laughter yoga program.
In fact, Laura was in Durbin, South Africa, last month for the COP17 convention where attendees wrung their hands over the potential disastrous fallout of global warming. They obviously needed a little laughter.
“By some estimates,” Laura says, “we should be laughing 20 minutes a day. Most people laugh 15 times a day but for only 1.2 seconds each time.”
Laura was one of those.
“I was feeling particularly stressed in my profession,” she says. “It has a high burnout rate.”
Caring for a congregation is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from birth to death. You know the burdens other people carry and share in their concerns.
Laura’s husband, William Gentry II, also experienced the stress, although on another level. He’s a black man in a predominately white community as minister of the First Congregational Church in McGregor. (They live in that church’s parsonage.) She’s quick to say the communities readily accepted the mixed-race, mixed denominational couple.
Laura and William met at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., and married in 1996. He’s from Alaska. She was born in Cedar Rapids and grew up in Illinois, Wisconsin and Dubuque. After five years in Los Angeles, they came to Iowa. As she’s expanded her laughter program, he’s pursued professional photography.
“We love Iowa,” Laura says, laughing. “Some people don’t get us here, but they tolerate us.”
The laughter, she admits, has become an important aspect of the Gentrys taking care of themselves, too.
“It’s miraculous to me how a little laughter can do so much for people,” Laura says.
Following the principals of Dr. Madan Kataria who started laughter sessions in India and brought his teachings to California, Laura incorporated her experience in dance, the arts and public speaking into “The Iowa School of Laughter Yoga.” She and William have produced books, videos and a website,, extolling laughter’s benefits. Her audiences range from executives in suits at GE Healthcare in Wisconsin to students in Chile where she and William laughed their way across the country for three weeks.
“Laughter is this universal language,” Laura says, “and we learned how true that is.”
The yoga aspect of Laura’s sessions comes not in the exercise so much as the controlled breathing with the fits of laughter. Even if you force yourself to laugh, you get the benefits. Plus, it can become contagious and develop into genuine laughter.
In a recent session Laura had participants shake their hands, roll their shoulders, hop around, breathe deeply like weeds blowing in the wind, walk with an arm extended as if they were elephants. “I am happy,” they chanted. “I am relaxed. I am happy. I am relaxed.”
“Because we don’t tell jokes,” Laura says, “nobody is being laughed at. It’s just playful laughter.”
She had everyone hold a hand over theirs noses, pretending it was a mask for laughing gas. They panted like a dog and wagged their tails. They pretended to breathe through their right ears because, as Laura said, “You can’t do it and that’s what makes it funny.”
At one point, everyone sat in a circle and smiled at each other until it became a grin and then all out laughter. It put everyone in a positive mood which, with exercise, can become habitual.
“No sense of humor is required,” Laura says, “but humor leads to laughter and laughter leads to humor.”
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1 comment:

Cheerfueled Cheryl said...

I was first introduced to Laughter Yoga in 2009 and in 2010 learned about Laughing Laura while completing my Laughter Yoaga Leader training under the direction of Dan and Jill from Joyful Living in Sioux Falls. There have been many a commutes when I have listened to Laughing Laura CDs and used them for inspiration before leading a laughter session. Grateful for Laughing Laura and Madan Kataria for creating Laughter Yoga.