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Can fitness ever be fun? We sign up for a laughter yoga class to find outWe’re holding hands in a circle with ten strangers, taking turns contorting ourselves to crawl through a hula hoop then passing it to the next person without breaking the circle.
It might sound odd, but it’s one of many bizarre tasks in a new laughter yoga class at La Rosy Beauty Spa & Fitness Centre in Al Khalidiya.
Though yoga is over 5,000 years old, laughter yoga is a newer discipline. An Indian physician Madan Kataria started it in the 1990s after moving from a village to Mumbai and finding residents too serious. You can now try it in 65 countries.
The concept is simple: laugh your head off – and get fit in the process.
Scientists believe that laughter, even forced laughter, provides the brain with oxygen and produces endorphins – natural chemicals that make you happy. This relieves stress and boosts the immune system. So it seems laughter really is the best medicine.
Kathryn Armstrong is a certified laughter yoga instructor in Abu Dhabi.
Growing tired of other group-style classes that were too tough on her body, Kathryn participated in a laughter yoga class with her two daughters in the UK in 2014. She says, “I was hooked. In ordinary exercise classes people are only concerned about themselves and their bodies. But in laughter yoga participants interact with each other.”
On our visit, we join a dozen women of every shape, size and age standing nervously waiting for the class to start.
Kathryn puts us at ease, greeting us with high fives and hugs.
She starts by creating comical scenes for us to act out, which we begin with a low, forced laugh. First we imagine blowing a bubble with laughter, next we’re drinking pretend giggle juice. Before long, we’re doing the conga, laughing our head off.
Eye contact is encouraged, because, we find, when you’re looking at someone giggling straight in the eye, you can’t help but giggle back.
Soon our chuckles turn into roars of laughter and the noise level reaches a frenzied pitch.
Our favourite activity is a pretend phone call, which sees us mimicking answering a phone then giggling as if the caller on the other end is hilarious.
Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. We look ridiculous, we feel ridiculous, we are ridiculous – but that’s why it’s fun.
The class makes you step outside your comfort zone and by the end of it we feel rejuvenated, relaxed and stress-free. Only our cheeks hurt from over-use.
Like us, Susan Simmons is a fellow first-time participant. She says, “At first I was nervous laughing in a room full of strangers. But the laughter is extremely contagious so my barriers came down quickly. By the end I felt as if I’d made a group of new friends.
Laughter yoga makes exercise fun. And when you laugh, the world laughs with you.
AED 50 at La Rosy Beauty Spa & Fitness Centre, Al Khalidiya. AED 30 at Susan Young Beauty Centre, Al Bateen. The schedule varies each week. Contact: 050 739 5592 or search for laughter yoga with Kathryn on Facebook.
Heather Long Vandevoorde
- See more at: http://abudhabiweek.ae/funny-fitness/#comment-17962
Laughter Yoga is for everyone’British expat who became a yoga teacher despite suffering from multiple sclerosis will hold a free session on August 18
Abu Dhabi: A British expat who overcame multiple sclerosis to become a yoga teacher is holding a free laughter yoga session this weekend as part of a women’s empowerment workshop.
Abu Dhabi based Kathryn Armstrong, 53, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2008 said she wants to demonstrate the physiological and psychological benefits of laughter, which she claims brought about a positive change in her own condition.
Sustained laughter, the hallmark of laughter yoga, releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers and mood modulators), which helps boost immune system function, improves breathing, strengthens trunk muscles, lowers levels of the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol, helps with sleep problems, and reduces blood pressure, according to medical studies.
Armstrong who conducts laughter yoga classes for individual groups as well as companies said she discovered the health benefits of laughter yoga when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis
“For 29 years I was an adviser for the Department of Working Pensions in the UK, dealing with work training and social issues of families. When I arrived in Abu Dhabi 10 years ago I was looking for something new but as luck would have it I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and had to undergo neurophysiotherapy.
“It was not easy being in a new country and having to face these issues,” recalled Armstrong. “That’s when the idea of laughter yoga began to sound appealing.”
During her frequent trips to the UK, she attended laughter yoga courses which she found to be very therapeutic. In 2014, she did a Laughter Yoga Leader Course and followed it up with Laughter Yoga Teacher Course and Laughter Therapist Course (all in the UK).
“In the last three years, I have conducted six courses in the UAE and the region as well. I have also certified 12 Laughter Leaders who are now conducting their own courses,” said Armstrong.
Leaving a legacy
As a side effect of MS, Armstrong developed optic neuritis (inflammation that damages the optic nerve) two years ago. She also suffers from spasticity (a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted) in her right thigh. But this doesn’t stop her from being a powerhouse of energy during classes. A typical session starts with a jovial ice breaker by Armstrong. It is followed by clapping, breathing and playful exercises. It ends with 10 minutes of ‘free laughter relaxation’.
For more information or registration, visit ww.pureholisticswithkathrynarmstrong.com
The writer is an Abu Dhabi-based freelancer