By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Research and a worldwide laughter club phenomenon are showing that humor and frequent “ha-has” is exactly what the doctor ordered for a healthier, happier life.
An article published on the Psychology Today website explained that laughter really is the best medicine. Cardiologist Dr. Michael Miller was quoted in the article saying that regular exercise and daily laughter is great for better circulation in the body.
“At this year’s meeting of the American College of Cardiology, Michael Miller, M.D., of the University of Maryland reported that in a study of 20 healthy people, provoking laughter did as much good for their arteries as aerobic activity,” stated the article.
Alexa Fong Drubay, of Media, was introduced to yoga by her cousin in 2010. She was skeptical at first but felt wonderful after going through several laughing exercises. Drubay was in a very abusive relationship years ago and had a family member commit suicide. She said laughter helped improve her overall-wellbeing and to overcome depression.
“The laughter is a wonderful way to process it all,” Drubay said.
She now teaches laughter yoga in the Philadelphia area. Laughter yoga differs from traditional yoga because there aren’t any poses but uses laughter exercises that have been developed over the past 20 years. The humorous clubs were created in 1995 by cardiologist Dr. Madan Kataria, who lives in India. Drubay said Kataria noticed there wasn’t much laughter happening around him and that he was often stressed from work.
“He realized that laughter was so important and that he needed to laugh more,” she said, adding that this realization lead to worldwide laughter yoga clubs. “Laughter yoga is a combination of laughter exercises, some deep yoga breathing and mindfulness meditation.”
Drubay travelled to Bangalore, India two years ago to be trained by Kataria. She said it was a fantastic adventure. She came back to the U.S. after two weeks with her official laughter yoga teacher certification. Drubay has weekly free laughter clubs in Media where she invites the community to let out the giggles in a group environment.
“It’s not just a bunch of people standing in a room laughing hysterically,” she said adding that there’s a science behind it.
For the laughter yoga class, Drubay incorporates the four elements of joy which are clapping, singing, dancing and laughing. Since the heart rates goes up when you laugh hard, she uses deep yoga breathing to bring it back down. The class ends with a short meditation. She’s worked with school children, seniors, corporate groups and more. She said the club draws all kinds of people from doctors and teachers to just everyday people. Drubay said the club is a non-judgemental group that’s not about skin color or economic background. It’s just for anyone that wants to learn how to laugh more to be healthier, she said.
“I teach people to respond differently to challenges in life,” Drubay said.
She said laughter affects the whole being and introduces more oxygen into the body which expands the arteries. It creates endorphins just like the ones created when doing exercises like running. Laughing makes you feel good and it boosts the immunity, Drubay said. She said cancer patients use laughing as an alternative therapy and combat veterans use it for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It really does incredible things,” she said. “It’s really powerful.”
People are catching on to the health benefits of the laughter yoga. The clubs have spread to more than 100 countries and are practiced in more than 6,000 clubs.
The laughing exercises encourage social interaction as well as help people be more resilient and joyful, Drubay said.
“We train people to start to incorporate laughter into their lives on a daily basis and build up to 10 to 15 minutes of laughter a day,” she said.
Drubay said her goal is to help spread laughter throughout many other communities. She does this partly through her yoga laughter club classes. Every Sunday at 2 p.m., the club meets at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County. There are also club meetings 6 p.m. Mondays at the Media Borough Community Center. For specifics about the upcoming yoga club meetings in Media, visit www.meetup.com/Laughter-Yoga-Club-Delaware-County-PA/?scroll=true.
Drubay is also spreading laughter through presentations, workshops and by certifying others to become teachers. She has trained about 50 people so far in laughter yoga.
“It’s the gift that never ends,” she said.
To find out more about future laughter yoga events with Drubay, visit her website at laughteryogawithalexa.com. To learn more about the history of laughter yoga clubs and to find clubs in the area, visit laughteryoga.org.