No downward dogs here: Laughter yoga an upbeat exercise in fun, well-being

November 22nd, 2016 9:00 am - updated: 11:16 am.

WILKES-BARRE — If conferences are meant to be formal informative gatherings, then why were a roomful of adult professionals walking around with their tongues out and hands up like lion claws, laughing at each other? It wasn’t insanity, it was laughter yoga. Jeannine Luby was introduced to laughter yoga — a practice that uses a series of laughing exercises to improve demeanor and well-being — in 2006 during an event in Philadelphia organized by World Laughter Tour, a company that promotes the healthy aspects of hearty ho’s and ha’s. For Luby, laughter is academic. She conducted research into the value of laughter and humor during her post-graduate studies at Marywood University and currently works as a stand-up comedian, author and communications professor at King’s College. Luby is also a certified laughter leader — a laughter yoga yogi. “It’s about simulated laughter,” Luby said. “I don’t have a studio it’s not like people come to me. I actually use it at conferences, I use it at senior centers. I use it to relieve stress and to enjoy the health benefits of it, the wellness benefits of it.” Laughter yoga doesn’t require a mat or the ability to stretch — practitioners aren’t even required to stand. Luby leads a group by example, starting with breathing exercises that insert ha’s, he’s and ho’s during exhales. By the time she asks participants to force hearty chuckles, the fake laughter turns real. “The idea is for people to choose to laugh, just like we choose to, say, go for a walk, go for a bike ride, do something as a form of exercise to feel better or to relieve stress,” Luby said. “It eventually becomes real even though you’re kind of simulating laughter at first. It becomes real because it’s contagious and you’re doing it together.” On Nov. 17, Luby oversaw a session of laughter yoga at an Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter conference in Wilkes-Barre. After attendees went through the opening exercises, Luby asked them to imagine they were on a plane with emergency oxygen masks replaced with laughing gas masks. Once the plane landed, participants waved their arms like laughing trees before greeting each other hands up and tongues out like a laughing lion. Scranton resident Marty McGurin said he almost skipped Luby’s session but he was glad he didn’t. “When I’m around people, to do something like that is really silly, but it was a lot of fun,” said McGurin, 70. “I feel more energized now.” McGurin was seated at a table with Cynthia Huling Hummel, who he said he “got the biggest kick out of” during the session. Hummel, 62, was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s and serves as the early-stage advisor for the Alzheimer’s Association. “I think it makes you feel happy and it’s just a way to let go of any worries you might have or any negative thoughts and just be in the moment,” Huling Hummel said. “Just looking around the room and seeing everybody embracing it and trying it — people were stepping out of their comfort zone and it was great.”

Sandra Marsch and Rosalie Rudegeair perform laughing exercises as part of a laughing yoga seminar conducted at Alzheimer’s Association Great Pennsylvania Chapter’s Nov. 17 conference in Wilkes-Barre.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/web1_TTL112216laughteryoga1-4.jpgSandra Marsch and Rosalie Rudegeair perform laughing exercises as part of a laughing yoga seminar conducted at Alzheimer’s Association Great Pennsylvania Chapter’s Nov. 17 conference in Wilkes-Barre. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Instructor Jeannine Luby demonstrates laughing exercises during a laughing yoga seminar Nov. 17. Luby has worked with a variety of groups ranging in age and physical ability.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/web1_TTL112216laughteryoga2-4.jpgInstructor Jeannine Luby demonstrates laughing exercises during a laughing yoga seminar Nov. 17. Luby has worked with a variety of groups ranging in age and physical ability. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Participants take part in a laughter yoga session during Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter’s Nov. 17 conference in Wilkes-Barre. http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/web1_TTL112216laughteryoga3-4.jpgParticipants take part in a laughter yoga session during Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter’s Nov. 17 conference in Wilkes-Barre. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Jeannine Luby’s sessions start with forceful laughter, creating social situations that foster hardy chuckles
By Gene Axton [email protected]  
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts  
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