Laughter yoga stimulates mind, body and funny bone

The next laughter yoga session will be held at the community center on Palm Street on July 15 from 7-9:15 p.m. Courtesy photo.

Learning to laugh gives people a different way to deal with the world and their problems.

Bob Banner, who teaches people about laughter, will introduce the concept of laughter yoga at the community center next to the San Luis Obispo County Library Thursday night.

“Why be upset and be miserable when you can’t change anything?” Banner said.

Instead, he said, try laughter.

“Laughter is contagious and associated with fun,” Banner said. “You don’t need a sense of humor, and you don’t need to be happy to do it.”

Banner learned about laughter yoga in December of 2009. The practice teaches people to laugh at themselves and laugh more. The movements can be anything from hopping from foot to foot to dancing around the room. Banner said this makes a simulation of laughter that leads to genuine laughter.

Banner learned to be a laughter yoga teacher by studying under Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, India, in March 2010.

Kataria learned the benefits of laughter when he wrote an article about the effects of laughing in 1995. He created a laughter club where people could laugh together. The laughter club relied upon jokes, which weren’t always effective, he said. So he turned to his wife, a yoga teacher, to see if they could simulate laughing with the body. She helped develop laughter yoga by explaining to the practitioners the correct ways to breathe. Breathing correctly keeps practitioners from getting light-headed or becoming dizzy, Banner said.

While breathing is important, Banner also encourages practitioners to use what they learn in sessions in real life. In one exercise, Banner pretends to point and look at his watch while laughing. He said this will create an alternative response when people look at their watches and react to being late.

“It is the flexibility of choice,” Banner said. “The choice to be in a good mood or the choice to be in a bad mood.”

Eve Neuhaus, a local writer, opens her house to laughter yoga sessions four times a month. She said it is a great exercise that emphasizes the importance of breathing and incorporating that into a carefree lifestyle.

“It helps people feel free,” Neuhaus said. “I think the exercises have made me able to take things a little more lightly.”

The movements are built for almost everyone — the most intensive requires a person to roll with their back on the floor. Banner said laughter yoga doesn’t require any prior yoga knowledge and is for everyone.

Vraja Sauer features laughter yoga classes at her restaurant Vraja’s Kitchen on Sundays. She said people need more choices of how to relax.

“I believe in laughter yoga. We’re on call all the time, but what about the fun in life?” Sauer said. “I believe it can change people’s lives.”

Although she is relatively new to laughter yoga, Sauer said the laughter created from laughter yoga is natural and pure.

Banner starts the Thursday night event with a documentary entitled “Laughology,” which follows journalist Albert Nerenberg across the world as he finds out why people laugh and where they learn to laugh. He interviews people who study laughter in different cultures.

“‘When you laugh, you change, and when you change, the whole world changes,’” Banner said, quoting Kataria.

The next laughter yoga session is at the community center downtown on July 15 from 7 to 9:15 p.m.

Who: Bob Banner

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