Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Laughter is the best medicine
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.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Laughing Through Life in Lansing

What's causing an uproar of laughter in Lansing? Absolutely nothing. Once a week people meet at the Lansing Community Center to laugh about nothing.

"We initiate it as an exercise and so we get laughing and it's actually pretend laughter, but it becomes real almost immediately because we're doing it as a group and we connect. We develop a child-like playfulness and the laughter flows," said Pastor Laura Gentry.

Pastor Laura Gentry went to California to become a certified Laughter Yoga instructor. In January she started Iowa's first laughter club.

Laughter Yoga is based on two main concepts: you can laugh for no reason and the body can't tell the difference between real laughter and fake laughter.

Lansing Laughter Club members like Robert Grover and Chris Bolson are hooked.

"I come here and I just let go. Most people do," said Robert Grover.

"You kind of have a down day and you leave here so refreshed," said Chris Bolson.

If you can laugh, you can join laughter club. You don't even need a sense of humor.

"If you're laughing regularly the stress just floats away and life becomes totally tolerable. So I've found myself being more joyful, more relaxed, my immune system is better and I'm just having a lot more fun. People say I'm more fun to be around," said Pastor Gentry.

More fun... and Pastor Laura said you'll be healthier too.

"They just discovered Laughter Yoga can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50 percent. Because it's such a good cardio workout it raises your heart rate almost immediately. So at one minute you can get your heart rate at a level it would take ten minutes to get on a bike."

So, laughter really is the best medicine. The laughter doesn't have to stop when 30 minutes are up. Pastor Laura said she's made a life decision to laugh more often.. and you can too.

Copyright © 2007, KWWL Channel 7
This website article accompanied the TV news story below,
which aired on May 24, 2007

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga, talks briefly in this video about the work I'm doing to bring more laughter and joy to the Lutheran Church.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


If you want a good laugh, join the club

Iowa members hope there are health perks to be found
from being in stitches.


If you want to finish off Wednesday in a good mood, head to Lansing.

The local Laughter Club is holding its sixth meeting. For half an hour, residents of this northeast Iowa river town will participate in a series of exercises guaranteed to make even the most dour person giggle and guffaw.

"The first time, I laughed so hard I had to sit down," said Avis Davis, 60, unleashing a boisterous chortle just at the memory.

"The time goes bam. You get to giggling and it's gone. It feels so ... oh honey, you just come home feeling like, woo, you really feel good. It makes your whole evening."

The group - apparently the only one of its kind in Iowa - is led by the Rev. Laura Gentry of Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

Gentry said she first heard about the Laughter Club concept, which began in India and has spread from Bahrain to Brazil, from a BBC series called "The Human Face" and couldn't stop thinking about it.

Finally, last year, she approached her church council with a proposal: What if the council members paid her way to Los Angeles over Thanksgiving weekend so she could become a certified laughter leader?

Not surprisingly, they thought it was pretty funny.

"It sounds so silly," Gentry, 36, said. "I didn't experience any resistance. As soon as I got back for my council report, I made them do some laughter exercises. They were sold."

That a sense of humor has serious health benefits is something scientists have been saying for a long time.

Studies in the emerging field of gelatology (the study of humor) indicate laughter improves the function of blood vessels, boosts the immune system, reduces levels of stress hormones, makes people feel more hopeful and may help prevent heart disease.

The problem? Adults tend to be a pretty humorless lot.

The average adult, according to a study by researchers at the University of Western Ontario, only laughs about 17 times a day.

In 1995, Dr. Madan Kataria, a general practice physician in Bombay, India, set out on a mission to raise the public hilarity level.

He collected a bunch of funny stories and began leading group giggle sessions. Within a week, he was out of material.

His solution was simple: Why not just have club members pretend to find things funny?

Using yoga as a guide, Kataria created a series of laughter "exercises" that mimicked the physical attributes of side-splitting merriment without the jokes.

The concept proved infectious, and Laughter Yoga International ( now boasts more than 5,000 laughter clubs in more than 40 countries.

Although the Lansing Laughter Club is the only Iowa group listed on the organization's Web site, a Quad Cities-area Laughter Club meets in Illinois.

Gentry said the Lansing group, which is free and open to the public, draws as many as three dozen people a week, some from as far as Waukon, 15 miles away. The club has outgrown the church, she said, and next week will move to the Kerndt Brothers Community Center.

In Lansing, club sessions always begin with a greeting exercise. Members exchange handshakes, make eye contact, then laugh in each other's faces. As the night progresses, they may find themselves popping imaginary laughter pills, soaring around the room with their arms extended like laughing airplanes, or snickering like they're in a library and trying not to get caught.

If it all sounds rather, well, childish, that's the point, Gentry said.

"It's playful, and adults just don't get opportunities to play very often," she said. "It's a safe place I can come and be goofy for half an hour, and I don't have to be self-conscious."

The laughter may be a bit forced at first, but watching the expressions on the faces of other participants soon has them cracking up for real, participants say.

In fact, some members report guffawing so hard their muscles ached.

"When you get home sometimes, you're kind of sore in the bottom of your rib cage and your cheeks are sore," said Janet McMillan, who makes the weekly drive from Waukon with her husband, Gary Jones. "I just love it."

Gentry said she warns people that Laughter Yoga is vigorous exercise and chairs are on hand for people who need a break.

"No one's ever died from it, but it would be a good way to go," she said. "I think the bigger risk is not laughing."

Gentry has personal experience on that score. As a high school senior, she said, she was so stressed out she had to take prescription ulcer medicine.

The pain went away in college as she became immersed in dorm life and new friends.

"That's when I kind of made a life decision - I'm a laugher," she said.

Gentry hopes the Laughter Club will help people in Lansing develop more meaningful connections with each other and create a more harmonious community.

At the end of each meeting, she said, participants engage in heart-to-heart laughter. They hold hands, or hug, and laugh together.

"I hope it's going to make Lansing a more loving town," Gentry said. "A laughing loving town."

Reporter Mary Challender can be reached at (515) 284-8470 or

Copyright © 2005, The Des Moines Register.

This article appeared on the front page of the Des Moines Register on February 6, 2007

For more press on Laughing Laura, visit the Press & Testimonials page.