My purpose in telling my story and teaching Laughter Yoga is to share my passionate belief that there’s nothing so serious that a little laughter wouldn’t help, and maybe even heal!
Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.
— Henry Ward Beecher
I have been teaching and practicing yoga since 1971 and was a resident at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health during 1994-6. Then in 2004, one month before my 54th birthday, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Since the diagnosis, my body has lost a lot of its flexibility, balance and strength and I deal with chronic pain. So, I haven’t been able to do some of the yoga postures I used to be able to do.
That’s why I was ecstatic when I discovered Laughter Yoga because even I can do it! I have found that 20 minutes of laughter can make the pain go away for hours. I consider Laughter Yoga a part of my “inner pharmacy” and so far I’ve not found it necessary to take any prescription drugs.
A recent study at Stanford University concluded that laughter stimulates the parts of our brain that use the “feel good” chemical messenger dopamine. This is the study that sold me on Laughter Yoga, since Parkinson’s is characterized by a lack of dopamine in the body.
Research has shown that laughter also lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle range of motion, boosts immune system function and increases cancer-fighting cells. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, produces a general sense of well-being and many other physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual benefits too numerous to mention here.
I’m hoping that the inner joy Laughter Yoga puts me in touch with will help to heal the Parkinson’s by creating more dopamine in my body. Even if it doesn’t cure the Parkinson’s at least I’ll laugh and enjoy the process! I tell my students, “If you see me shake while I’m demonstrating a pose, just know that’s my special brand of Laughter Yoga. You don’t need to imitate the shake!”
“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”
With Laughter Yoga, we remember to laugh at whatever life throws at us, even something “incurable” like Parkinson’s disease. After all, doesn’t “incurable” really mean “curable from within”? I’m betting on it!
Gita (Jill) Fendelman, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, trained with Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the World Laughter Movement. She is certified by and affiliated with the Dr. Kataria School of Laughter Yoga, whose mission is Good Health, Joy and World Peace through Laughter. Gita is a member of the Tucson Laughter Club and a founding member of the Curves Laughter YogHA Club in Tucson.
She also is a Kripalu-certified Yoga teacher with over 30 years’ experience teaching Yoga at schools and universities, corporations, health clubs, spas, spiritual retreat centers and in private homes. Besides all that, she’s a recovered tax attorney who can laugh in Mandarin! She is available for Laughter Yoga retreats and workshops, Certified Laughter Yoga Leader trainings, corporate Laughter Yoga services, Laughter Yoga class instruction and Laughter Yoga public speaking.