You are a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader and Teacher. Tell us more about Laughter Yoga and its benefits.
Imagine being a wellspring of effervescent rainbow-colored water. Your effervescence gets bigger and bolder until it erupts dancing, swirling, jiggling and giggling. That is one metaphor that describes the incredible release and joy we experience with hearty laughter. Laughter Yoga was birthed basically because we don’t breathe deeply enough, nor do we laugh deeply or enough to benefit from either. Laughter Yoga is a unique technique that harnesses the power of our natural abilities to laugh and breathe to create positive physiological and psychological changes in our bodies and minds.
Based on ancient Hasya Yoga, Laughter Yoga was brought into modern day usage through interactive laughter exercises in “laughter clubs” by Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from India. We laugh voluntarily by engaging in fun and playful laughter exercises, and in between the laughter exercises, we breathe deeply. Both laughter and deep breathing activate our diaphragm, which allows for improved lung function to breathe out more stale air while breathing in more fresh air. In Laughter Yoga we laugh unconditionally—no need to be happy to laugh or to ace that test or lose those pounds or get that deal, all the things we can feel like until certain things happen, then we deserve to laugh or have permission to laugh. We laugh and then happiness and joy flow.
Laughter also stimulates the release of chemicals that elevate our mood (serotonin, dopamine and endorphins), relax our blood vessels (serotonin and nitric oxide), increase our sense of togetherness and connection (oxytocin), and relieve pain (endorphins). While these positive changes are occurring, stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) are decreasing, resulting in stress reduction. We end up feeling happier, healthier, more focused, hopeful, resilient and socially connected.
What led you to Laughter Yoga?
A medical crisis, beginning in 2008 and lasting into 2010, led me to Laughter Yoga. I survived three cancer surgeries and wanted to thrive again. A teacher suggested I check into Laughter Yoga. Crises have a way of opening our hearts and minds to new opportunities. In 2011, I found joy, community, and stress relief through the Laughter Yoga Leader’s certification training. To expand our laughter community, I became a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher to train other Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders.
Why is Laughter Yoga a great outlet for women in midlife and beyond?
Midlife is an opportunity to live into new possibilities that express our authentic selves. Laughter Yoga opens us to our playfulness and joyfulness. When we focus on fun, we start seeing new ways to be curious, playful, and more fully engaged in the present moment.
What programs do you offer?
I founded and facilitate the free weekly Optimists Laughter Club at Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, Illinois, and conduct laughter presentations and workshops for corporations, retirement communities, support groups, YMCA, houses of worship, and one-on-one.
What resources do you recommend to help us find more joy and laughter in our lives?
Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life by Barbara Fredrickson
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman
The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Laugh For No Reason, by Madan Kataria
Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient by Norman Cousins (inspired the founder of modern Laughter Yoga)
Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee
Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
You Tube videos on Laughter Yoga, specifically those by Robert Rivest
Ellen Klein is a registered nurse who shifted from giving conventional injections to injections of joy and laughter. Professionally trained, in Laughter Yoga, Ellen founded and facilitates the free weekly Optimists Laughter Club at Glenbrook Hospital and conducts Laughter Yoga presentations, workshops and Laughter Yoga Leader certification trainings to serve humanity for a joyful evolution.