They say laughter is the best medicine, and for the residents of Querencia at Barton Creek – a retirement community – the old adage has become a word of truth for those who participate in the senior living community’s Laughter Yoga class.
Twice a month, Leah Tunnell, a certified Laughter Yoga instructor, helps residents at Querencia find the benefit in laughter. While the idea of laughing as a form of exercise might seem strange, the full-body actions provide a mild cardiovascular workout that helps to strengthen and cleanse the lungs and stimulate blood flow throughout the body through the jiggling of the organs. While people of all ages can benefit from the classes, the exercises are especially advantageous for seniors. The movements are good for those with arthritis, allergies, diabetes, heart conditions and more. Additionally, laughter boosts the immune system and naturally lifts one’s spirits through the release of endorphins and dopamine into the body after only 10 minutes. Laughter is also a medically accepted form of exercise with proven mental and physical benefits, particularly for overcoming depression and promoting healing.
“The hardest part about a laughter class is learning how to get over your reservations when it comes to acting a little foolish,” says Tunnell. “You have to let go of your fear and be in the moment. While laughing is lighthearted, it’s also a proven way to improve your overall health and well-being. I’ll guarantee that anyone will walk away feeling better than they did before walking through the door after participating in a laughter yoga class.”
For resident Ann Kirk, Laughter Yoga provides a sense of freedom from the pressures of everyday life. It gives her the opportunity to relax and find pleasure in the simple things.
“Hearing someone laugh is infectious,” said Kirk. “In that moment you have the ability to pause and take in the joy we experience in our lives. Being able to marvel at life and your own sense of self – even for a moment – is something that makes you feel better or whole. There has been plenty of research which shows that just 10 minutes of laughter equals that of 30 minutes spent on a treadmill. I don’t know about you, but I find treadmills very boring and would much rather spend my time laughing.”
According to Kirk, she has always lived an active lifestyle and has even taken traditional yoga classes since 1971. She says that while all exercise programs have their own unique benefits, Laughter Yoga offers a social benefit as well, as everyone sits or stands together in a circle feeding off of each other’s energy. She had never truly experienced this until she participated in one of the classes.
“When you first start going to Laughter Yoga it seems to be the oddest thing you’ll ever do,” said Kirk. “But the laughter is so real and contagious that you fall right in with everyone else, you just have to be willing to try something different. The activities are very childlike in nature and require a use of the imagination, and there’s great freedom in being able to act as a child with no judgement or demands from those around you.”
Querencia at Barton Creek adheres to the Masterpiece Living® Program philosophy that embraces healthy living at any age in all regards – physical, spiritual, social and intellectual. This includes the opportunity to help seniors remain active through engaging activities and programs, like Laughter Yoga.
“As a Masterpiece Living Center for Successful Aging community we do everything we can to make sure that the residents have access to the resources they need to lead healthy and active lives,” said Nate Weyand, executive director of Querencia at Barton Creek. “The Laughter Yoga program is yet another unique way of staying healthy physically and mentally, and it allows participants to engage with those around them. With the start of a new year, we all look for ways to enhance our overall well-being, and we hope that our Laughter Yoga participants inspire others to try something new and get active this year.”