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Laughter is the best medicine
Posted Aug 11, 2011 By Marc Larocque
While the old proverb says laughter is the best form of medicine, one man is putting that lesson to use.
Yoga instructor Chris Belanger is coming to Taunton next week to teach “laughter meditation,” which he says can give practitioners a boost both mentally and physically. Belanger said laughter meditation is a technique he adapted from an established practice created in India in 1995 called “laughter yoga.”
“The reason why they say laughter is the best medicine is because quite honestly it is,” said Belanger, based in Warwick, R.I. “In no particular order, what happens when we laugh is we are giving ourselves an internal massage, moving around, waking organs up, giving digestion track and immune system a little boost, toning muscles and losing stress.”
“There will be lots of laughs,” Belanger said.
Belanger, who is mainly a Karipalu yoga instructor, said he first tried laughter yoga three years ago.
“I thought that laughter would be a powerful thing to add to my yoga offerings,” Belanger said. “It’s a compassionate approach to yoga, it’s an opening approach to yoga based on some of the being in the moment and meditating. It’s more about working with breath and responding to your experience.”
Belanger said that after he found out about laughter yoga he was invited to give a lesson at a wellness center near his house. However, the room was small and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to have standing space, so he adapted the laughter yoga to a sitting position and dubbed it laughter meditation.
Since then, Belanger has brought laughter meditation to senior centers, wellness expos and women’s events. He says that practitioners are encouraged to focus on the breathing pattern that is inherent in laughter.
“They’ll be laughing, whether it’s real or fake,” Belanger said. “I guide people into laughter. Because laughter is contagious hopefully the laughter becomes genuine. If it doesn’t, the mind knows the difference but the body doesn’t. Even fake laughing the entire time still produces the physical benefits of laughter.
Belanger said that the laughter meditation has produced striking results, with some people feeling that it melted arthritis pain away, while others felt like it eased depression for about five to six hours.
“People with anxiety have it melt away for a period of time,” he said. “You name it, I’ve probably seen it.”
Ethel Fraga, a church member at St. Thomas Episcopal, invited Belanger to hold the workshop.
“We are trying to develop a program series on things like meditation and mindfulness,” said Fraga, who once saw Belanger teach in Rhode Island. “I found him so good. Laughter cuts through a lot of stuff. I urge people to come out with an open mind and have a little bit of fun with it. Just give it a try. There is nothing bad that can happen from laughing.”
Fraga said that “the world could use it now” with a troubled economy, wars and politics, adding that everybody needs “a few chuckles.”
Laughter yoga was founded by Madan Kataria, a doctor in India, who convinced people in 1995 at a park to laugh to feel good, just to see what would happen. While it was difficult to generate authentic laughter over the weeks, he came back to the park with the idea of “intentional laughter,” or just going through the motions of laughter without having to react to a joke or something funny.
Belanger said that there are now over 6,000 laughter yoga clubs over world and that laughter yoga is practiced in at least 65 counties.
Copyright 2011 The Taunton Gazette. Some rights reserved
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