Students tickled by Laughter Yoga
Bilingual education sophomore Valeria Cazares has had a tough semester juggling school and work and stressing for free time.
But a Laughter Yoga class March 28 helped her find some inner peace and joy.
“This definitely was the better route for me to relax and laugh with complete strangers,” Cazares said.
Health and happiness may be the last things on college students’ minds. Instead, some are dealing with depression, anger, stress and sleep deprivation.
Laughter yoga encourages participants to laugh their way to a healthier body and mind. The full-body experience of laughter causes relaxation even after participants have had a good laugh, said Nadia Padron, Student Activities yoga instructor, who led the class.
“Laughing releases endorphins and changes the brain’s perception of pain and negativity,” Padron said.
Her technique was to not only guide laughter during yoga class but to also provide examples to make negative situations positive with the power of laughter.
Padron began with Pranayama, or breathing exercises while standing.
The nine participants seemed nervous but watched Padron attentively, learning about the power of laughter. They began a warm-up lesson to the sequence “ HO, HO, HO HA, HA, HA” while clapping.
Students stood, sat or lay as though they were lifeless, relaxing before the real exercises started.
“Fake it till you make it,” Padron said, encouraging the students to force themselves to laugh.
As participants burst into fits of laughter during the exercise, they laughed at themselves, others and others laughing at them. The class had a breakthrough, and joyous smirks replaced timid smiles.
Laughing aids in negative situations and helps to trick the brain into not worrying about situations, said participant kinesiology freshman Tre-Nae Wiggins.
Padron created a warm environment with soothing music, essential oils and a welcoming circle.
Chuckling on the West Lawn, participants followed Padron in more yoga positions. The funny-looking exercises and the hilarious banter changed the environment of that quiet afternoon.
Passersby seeing nine college students voluntarily crying with belly laughter reacted with curiosity and interest.
“Are they laughing? What’s so funny?” asked biology freshman Maddie Romo.
A reporter explained the Laughter Yoga class to Romo.
“This is great!” Romo said. “I never knew laughter was that beneficial to your body.”
The community passing by couldn’t help but stop and laugh as well.
“You could hear the laughter and music all the way from the STEM building,” said Lola Ajanaku, communications sophomore.
Education freshman Samantha Heimer, an onlooker, said she always suspected laughter was beneficial.
“Wow, I knew it! Laughter was a great mental tool,” Heimer said.
The class ended with savasana, a corpse pose, where they lay flat on the ground.
Laughter Yoga was developed by Madan Kataria, M.D., a physician from India, according to Laughteryoga.org, the official site of Kataria. His idea and programs have spread from the parks in India to countries all over the world.
The site says laughter therapy stretches much farther than yoga classes. Companies, schools, therapy groups, fitness centers and senior communities even partake in this carefree mood booster.
This was the first laughter yoga class at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. And Padron said she hopes the positively funny, and loud participant reactions may lead to more laughter yoga events.
“I feel way happier every time I try to laugh; it’s a wonderful way to live,” Padron said. “The most important note is to not think, just do.”
To prepare for the class Padron challenged herself to laugh morning, noon and night, including some giggle-fueled sessions with friends.
But Padron originally wondered if her role had switched from yoga instructor to stand-up comedian.
“When they first asked me to lead the class, I thought I would’ve been telling jokes,” Padron said.