IF laughter is the best medicine, then the hilarious antics involved in a quirky new yoga craze are surely the cure.
Already making merriment in countries across the globe, laughter yoga – which encourages participants to crack-up during gentle exercise – has just landed in Derbyshire with the arrival of Karen Roberts and the Spire Laughter Club.
“The theory behind it is that the body doesn’t know the difference between real and fake laughter,” said Karen, who set up the club at Chesterfield’s Nenna Kind cancer centre in January. “They provide the same physiological and psychological benefits, so we encourage people to force laughter. But you find that it soon turns into real laughter.”
The discipline was formed in 1995, by a doctor in India, and is based around the principle that prolonged laughter can improve both physical and mental wellbeing. Gentle stretches, yogic breathing and bending are combined with sustained eye contact, playfullness, and self-triggered guffaws.
“There is no speaking, so it is good for shy people,” added Karen. “You maintain eye contact throughout, so you have broken the ice before you even say hello.”
Ann Smith, a volunteer at the Nenna Kind centre, has been going to the classes since they started.
She said: “It is good for people with lung problems because of the breathing, but for everyone else it just feels like a great workout. On my first lesson I started off unsure because you had to make yourself laugh, but by the time I had finished – which was only 30 minutes later – I really did feel better. It puts a smile on your face for the rest of the day, and you feel like you could just burst out laughing at anything.”
A typical class involves everything from ho-ho-ho’ing to walking like a penguin and making animal noises – all to get the participants in stitches.
“Some people giggle and others have belly laughs, and when you hear all the different types you have to laugh yourself and you forget everything else,” added Ann.
Karen runs the Spire Laughter Club at the Nenna Kind Centre, Dent’s Chambers, New Square, Chesterfield on Tuesday’s at 2pm. Everyone is welcome to attend, and the ticket’s cost £2 each, with £1 going to Nenna Kind.
For more information on the classes, call 01246862790.