Sunday, May 31, 2009


Laughter yoga for....DOGS!!?? I admit, it sounds ridiculous. But why not? Dogs are naturally playful and spontaneous. That's why I always encourage dog owners to laugh with their dogs. Indeed, dogs are fabulous laughers and can help their human companions live a more joyful life.

So when my neighbor, Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret, told me her dog, May, was depressed, I knew it was an emergency situation. I came right over to teach her laughter yoga.

May, you see, had put together a photographic modeling portfolio and submitted it to New York agencies. Though she is fantastic model, she is considered a Labradoodle reject because she's only a quarter poodle. That's why May and her siblings were sent to an animal shelter and had to be rescued by a woman from St. Olaf, Iowa. She was, then, adopted by my neighbors and had begun to lead a meaningful life. But when her portolio was rejected by New York as "Corn Tassel" from Iowa, it sent her into a tailspin. May fell into depression and spent useless days.

Immediately upon my arrival, however, May bounced back. She was soon feeling like her playful, puppy self. We laughed, danced, and played. I let her try on some of my fabulous laughter hats. She was a bit reluctant, but when I put the joker headband on her, she was hooked.

Then I showed her how great I look in my yellow wig.

Of course, she wanted to try it on and managed to put a pretty convincing smile on her face. Yes, laughter yoga was definitely bringing May out of her depression.

I taught her all about the health benefits of laughing and how the laughter yoga movement is spreading across the globe. She decided to become a laughter yoga leader for dogs so as to keep her fellow canines happy.

Little did I know that this Labradoodle reject was writing an autobiography! Yes, May had all the right connections. I think it helps that her owners run Penfield Books of Iowa City. She had been busy chronicling her first year and a half—with all its many tales (or should I say tails?)—and has just published it as a book entitled Finding My Way.

This 6x9" book is 112 pages and filled with unique hilarity. It gives a first-dog account of how May navigates life in her new family and learns dog park politics. She carefully weighs the proposition from Gus, a Poodle lover and subsequently decides to reject him and choose a hysterectomy rather than be the "other woman"!

May, then, turns her attention to convincing her owners to let her sleep in their bed and gathers evidence to make her case—revealing that a majority of dog owners do, indeed, sleep with their furry companions. Many say their dogs are better sleep partners than the human variety! The book features photographs of May's doggie friends and their human bedtime buddies.

Finding My Way also includes color photographs of May's darling modeling portfolio followed by her adventures in laughter yoga with that wild character called "Laughing Laura"! Her silly hat shots are truly hysterical. May and I designed a number of laughter yoga exercises for dogs and put them in this section of her book. You can try them with your own pups.

Finally, the book concludes with some wonderful recipes for homemade doggie treats, collected from May's friends. They are sure to delight.

If you are a dog enthusiast, you'll definitely need to check out May's book. There is nothing else like it. And since May and many of her fellow dogs in the book were rescued from animal shelters, she's decided to use her book as a fundraiser for shelters as well as public libraries.

It retails for just $14.95 and I've added it to my on-line Laughter Shoppe. I am now selling them in person at laughter yoga events. You can also buy May's book at Finding My Way

May you and your dogs keep laughing! Bow wow wow! Ha ha ha!

May McGregor Bourret is only 2 years old, but she already has her name on an autobiography.

Pretty good for a dog.

"Finding My Way" is the title of the new book involving May, a Labradoodle/Labrador mix, and her adventures during the first year of her life.

The book was released by Penfield Books, an Iowa City-based publisher run by Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret. "Now we realize that (May) has drawn on her talents from a past life, or lives, to create this book. Maybe she was a writer, or a poet," Bourret wrote in a foreword to her dog's book.

Bourret said that she never expected the photos of May to evolve into a book. In "Finding My Way," May is featured in a variety of shots Bourret describes as "fashion model" photos. May wears glasses, colorful hats, jewelry and scarves in the photos.

There's also a section on laughter yoga for dogs by Laura Gentry. Gentry founded the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga.

"The basic concept of laughter yoga is that anyone can laugh. You don't need jokes, comedy or even a sense of humor," Gentry wrote. "People find this notion a bit difficult to grasp. ... Dogs on the other hand are natural experts at this and have never needed jokes to become elated."

Another part of the book includes photos and letters from Bourret's friends' dogs, including several people from the Iowa City area.

Proceeds from the book will be donated to animal shelters, libraries and art museums.

Penfield Press has operated for more than 30 years.

Bourret said "Finding My Way" is outside of the press' standard repertoire. Penfield has more than 130 ethnic books on recipes, proverbs, folk stories and other subjects.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday Bourret and May will be at the North Liberty Community Library for a reading. Bourret said she also encourages people to come share stories about their dogs at the readings.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Karris Golden just wrote this opinion piece about laughter and faith for the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier in the Cedar Valley of Iowa.

Friday, May 29, 2009 12:01 PM CDT
Laughter proves to be good medicine

Laura Gentry loves a good laugh --- but don't laugh her off.

Gentry, laughter yoga expert and pastor of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Lansing, has serious wisdom to impart.

"Laughter yoga combines laughter exercises with deep breathing, stretching and relaxation. When it is practiced in a group, it becomes absolutely contagious," she says. "Not only do people laugh, but they joyfully connect with one another and cultivate their own childlike playfulness."

By merging laughter with conventional understandings of "yoga" and "meditation," we tap into the additional benefits of mirth, deep breathing and contemplative focus, Gentry explains.

"It is surprising, even outrageous, to think of laughter as a form of meditation," she says. "Yet not only is laughter meditation one of the simplest forms of meditation, it is also a very powerful one. The physical act of laughing is one of the few actions involving the body, emotions and the soul. When we laugh, we give ourselves over to the immediacy of the present moment."

Laughter yoga and meditation can have deep, meaningful and spiritual benefits, adds Gentry. It is healing, soothing and builds compassion.

"The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength," she says. "Yet with the many pressures modern people face, we don't always live with joy in our hearts. If we truly believe the good news of the gospel, I think it is imperative that we live joyfully."

The basic premise is that anyone can laugh, Gentry says.

"We don't need jokes, or comedy, or even a sense of humor to laugh," she explains. "All we need is the desire to laugh, to open up our hearts and let the joy of laughter flow."

It's deceptively simple. To laugh for "no reason" requires a certain level of vulnerability.

"Laughing in such a childlike manner is daunting to some people," Gentry explains. "They've been conditioned not to exhibit such behavior in public. This is why the concept of laughter yoga must be introduced carefully to convince them that it is valuable."

The "zealous laughers" usually bring the reluctant ones along, she says. "Even if they didn't intend to cut loose and laugh so much, it happens naturally when they see the exuberance of the others. By all laughing together, we give each other permission to set aside self-consciousness for the moment and laugh wholeheartedly."

Why laugh? Because laughter reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure, boosts immunity, eases physical pain and promotes happiness, Gentry notes. In addition, practicing laughter yoga can increase your creativity, physical vitality, communications skills and sense of well being.

Gentry presents laughter programs for churches and other groups, offering an in-depth look at biblical joy. And they laugh, of course. It's fun and fulfilling work, she says.

"Recently, I did a young women's retreat for a church in La Crosse (Wis.). They even brought their own silly hats, and we had such a wild time. It was amazing! We have also walked the sacred labyrinth while laughing and playing, and that's quite a spiritually enriching experience as well."

For more information or to contact Gentry, go to, write her at P.O. Box 11, Marquette 52158 or or call (563) 880-2699.