Laughter yoga – a technique combining laughter with yoga breathing – is gaining popularity in Ottawa as laughter yoga teacher, Sophie Terrasse, tries to spread the joy throughout the city.
Sarah Raghubir, Centretown News
Laughter yoga combines laughter with breathing and stretching exercises.
Terrasse, who leads a monthly workshop at Rama Lotus Yoga Centre, says laughter yoga teaches people how to take themselves less seriously. It allows people to laugh together for no reason, she says.
“The very essence of laughter yoga is to cultivate our childlike spirit and playful attitude,” she says. “As soon as we can do that, the laughter will come very easily.”
In a typical class, the leader will explain and demonstrate different exercises – such as imitating a lion roaring with laughter – and then the class will follow. During the class, the group will jump, sing, dance and laugh – a good session of aerobic exercise, says Terrasse.
Other laughter exercises teach people how to handle stressful situations with a positive attitude. Instead of becoming frustrated, they learn to laugh about the situation, she says.
Terrasse says laughter yoga has many proven benefits for both the body and the mind. It boosts the immune system, helps people manage stress and anxiety, and stimulates the right brain, which is associated with creativity.
Terrasse has been teaching laughter yoga since 2006. She was trained by Dr. Madan Kataria, who founded the laughter yoga movement in 1995. He had the idea of creating laughter clubs, and there are now more than 6,000 clubs around the world in more than 60 countries.
Terrasse started the Ottawa Sunflower Laughter Club in 2006, and she is often invited to hold laughter yoga workshops at conferences and workplaces. She hosted a few workshops in 2009 at the Rama Lotus studio on Gladstone Avenue, and last October they invited her to lead a monthly workshop.
Tara Porter, the general manager of Rama Lotus, says there was a lot of interest when they first began the class. She says when people see “laughter” in the title of the class, even those who may not practise yoga are drawn in because they already know that laughter makes them feel good.
“People don’t really want to hold back on their wellness . . . because it’s so important that that part of them is fed, that part of them is nurtured and taken care of, when there is so much stress outside in their daily life,” says Porter.
She says several people who try the class end up returning, and there are also many new recruits each month. Last month, there were nearly 30 people at the workshop.
Porter says laughter yoga’s gaining popularity in Ottawa is in large part due to Terrasse’s efforts. She says the recent workshops at Rama Lotus have also helped raise more awareness about laughter yoga.
Jenny Stodola, 19, joined Terrasse’s laughter club in January and says it helps her look at life in a more positive way.
“I think it just sort of makes you a happier person,” she says. “Even if you come here once a week, you still somehow feel happier the rest of the week.”
Gilles Deschênes, who also attends the laughter club, says it makes him feel more relaxed and gives him a place where he can laugh freely.
“It feeds my inner child,” he says. “It makes me feel young at heart.”
Terrasse says she wants to continue spreading laughter yoga so more people can experience it.
“Laughter yoga is the best medicine, for sure.”