BROWNSVILLE — A certified laughter yoga teacher is combining voluntary laughter with deep-breathing exercises to show a group of Brownsville seniors an exercise routine developed by an Indian physician that counts some 5,000 laughter yoga clubs worldwide and thousands of devotees.
Laughter yoga uses play acting, eye contact and other visualization techniques in combination with chants of “ho-ho, ha-ha-ha,” a variation of a yoga breathing technique. It can produce real health benefits by allowing people to have fun while exercising, organizers said.
Certified laughter yoga teacher Mayra Avila led a group of seniors during a Senior Health and Fitness Day event this week at the Rio Events Center.
Avila led the group through the exercises, first doing the breathing chants in English: “ho-ho, ha-ha-ha,” then following them up with a Spanish version “muy-bien, muy-bien, yea.” There was one rule, though. No actual talking among those doing the exercises.
At one point people were asked to laugh at their anger. They scrunched up their faces feigning anger. Then they laughed at themselves saying “muy bien, muy bien, yea” and pointing at each other.
They followed a similar routine for a trip to Hawaii, laughing at themselves as they, dressed, packed for and took the trip. Then they raised and lowered their arms, palms turned up, and breathed in and out.
“Aloha,” everyone said.
“Next they laughed at themselves silently, prepared coffee or tea, and did the dishes, all the while saying “ho, ho, ha, ha, ha” or “muy bien, muy bien, yea” and pantomiming what they were doing. There was even a routine for releasing negative energy.
“The whole time you’re doing aerobic exercises. … In the end they had worked out for 30 minutes,” Avila said.
Participant Perlina Castillo said it was the first time she had encountered such a thing.
Through a translator she said she was stressed out before the session but afterward felt calmer and thought her blood pressure had improved.
Avila said laughter yoga founder Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, India, certified her as a laughter yoga teacher. She lives in McAllen, works at South Texas College and is spreading the word about the practice.
“This is so simple you can do it at home,” she said.
Another participant, Juan Sosa, is a member of Health to You, a healthy living organization sponsored by Valley Regional that helped put on Wednesday’s event.
“It’s a different way to relax and get your worries out of the way. It’s good for the heart. It’s good for everything,” he said.
About 100 people attended the event, which was organized as an information fair, with tables dispensing information about health topics of general interest and especially to older citizens.
A local group demonstrated Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art that has evolved into a graceful form of exercise used for stress reduction and other health benefits.
There was a session about aerobics, and a local physician spoke about the importance of exercise to brain health. The morning ended with a brown bag lunch provided by VRMC on an RSVP basis.