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Laughter yoga - it's not a joke

Last updated 05:00 04/04/2014
Ciara Pratt
Monica Tischler

LAUGH OUT LOUD: Ciara Pratt, front, tries a different kind of workout – laughing yoga.

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The saying goes, "the more you laugh the longer you live".

Judging by the amount of laughing completed in an hour at the Massey Laughter Yoga club, I should hopefully reach the ripe old age of 100.

How could anyone take a laughing class seriously, you may ask?

Laughter Yoga isn't a joke.

It aims to reduce stress and lower blood pressure, among other health benefits, and is becoming a well-recognised form of fitness.

The idea originated in 1995 with Indian GP Dr Madan Kataria and it's simple - spend an hour laughing and the yoga part of the class is the focus on breathing.

All you need is a pair of lungs and a voice box.

Its scientific benefits stem from the fact the body cannot differentiate between fake and genuine laughter.

So whether you are in the middle of a deep belly laugh or you force laughter out, you are receiving the same physiological and psychological benefits, such as an increase in your heart rate.

Laughter leader Louise Stevens was hooked after experiencing the benefits of Laughter Yoga during an unhappy time in her life.

"I am a shy, reserved person, believe it or not.

"I was in a down part of my life caring for my elderly mother and just really lacking any joy.

"One day my friend told me about a laughter club so I tried it out.

"I thought it was the weirdest thing the first time."

To a person off the street, the happenings in a laughter club would indeed look weird.

As a group we started our own political party, The Laughing Party, and attempted to create a society complete with laughing policemen, laughing politicians and laughing citizens.

It wasn't compulsory to laugh but seeing and hearing all the unique laughs in the group made it contagious.

"Most jokes these days are at the expense of other people, kids laugh for joy and we need to do more of that," Stevens says.

"Laughter is free exercise, we just don't use it enough."

I must admit afterwards I felt energised and definitely felt like my lungs had been worked out.

Now I have to figure out what to do with all these extra years of life I've gained.

May 4 is World Laughter Day.

Visit laughteryoga.org.nz to find a club near you or for more information on World Laughter Day celebrations.

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