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Laughter Proving To Be Best Medicine

January 9, 2012, 10:20 PM by Hailey Higgins

Laughter Proving To Be Best Medicine
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Bad health is no joke, but laughter yoga is proving to be effective for people suffering from a variety of illnesses.

Is laughter really the best medicine? More than a dozen people at the Dharma Room in Sioux Falls are convinced it is. They are practicing a yoga technique called laughter yoga.

"It is just fun. It feels good," Jill Johnson said.

You'd be surprised to know, the group is laughing at absolutely nothing. The intentional laughter is coupled with yoga breathing techniques and is credited with lowering stress and improving mood.

Instructors Dan and Jill Johnson say this type of laughter offers six times more oxygen than regular breathing.

"It is scientifically proven the body doesn't know the difference between a simulated laugh and a genuine, ‘Ha, ha.’ When you laugh you release chemicals that make you feel good. And that's where the magic happens," Dan said.

"It raises your endorphins. It helps with your pain level, it creates community instantly and it is contagious," Jill said.

Sue Kuehn caught on to laughter yoga three years ago after a knee surgery left her with a pulmonary embolism.

"The first couple times, I was very uncomfortable with it. The eye contact, in-your-face kind of thing. But as I kept doing it, I enjoyed it. It worked," Kuehn said.

With the help of yoga, Kuehn says her embolism went away while she noticed other benefits.

"My breathing got better and I also had more energy. It's relaxing," Kuehn said.

Marsha Barney cut her high blood pressure medicine in half since starting laughter yoga.

"It is fun getting to meet new people. I was shy at first, but I have come out of my comfort zone," Barney said.

Because there is no punch line, the techniques are universal.

"This is why we can do it with cancer patients, why we can do it with grief support groups, Parkinson's people, because we aren't asking them to laugh at a joke that they don't think is funny because their life is serious," Jill said. "We are laughing right here, right now in a very safe place. It opens and relates and it's a great release valve."

Laughter yoga classes at the Dharma Room are free to the community. They are often attended by people with developmental disabilities from South Dakota Achieve.

"At first, they didn't want anything to do with us but now, they get up and lead our exercises and they do it back at the group home," Jill said. "These are quite severely disabled people and the vibration of laughter, since we aren't laughing for any reason, I think they think we are crazy, but we still have fun."

"There are no mistakes; it is just fun," Dan said. "When you are doing it, you are experiencing it at the same time and so the joy bubbles up from within and it is just a blast."

If you would like to try laughter yoga, it will be taught at the Second Annual Sioux Falls Yoga Day on Saturday, January 14. It will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the downtown Siouxland Library branch.



© 2012 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.

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