Laughter yoga brings a mantra of merriment to your practice

A new belly-busting class is giving Edmontonians a few howls along with their daily downward dog.

Every Tuesday in October at south Edmonton’s La Cité Francophone, the Laughing Hour is hosting a laughter yoga class.

The class does not promise increased flexibility or rock-hard abs — though your stomach muscles may still get sore.

“Contrary to what a lot of people think, there is no yoga involved and there is no standup comedy show,” Laughter Hour founder and class instructor Maude Bombardier said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. 

“It just invites a lot of people to get together and do some laughter exercises together.”

The best medicine

Students of the workshops sit in a circle where they chant, clap and mostly chuckle. At first, the laughter is forced and lacks spontaneity but eventually — as participants get caught up in the moment — the giggles become genuine.

“Usually the laughter the starts as fake but they end up with real laughter,” Bombardier said. “Usually you feel silly, so you laugh at yourself and your laughter is contagious,” 

Laughter yoga, a practice made popular by Indian physician Madan Kataria in the mid-1990s, encourages playfulness and jokes.

Unlike conventional yoga classes, the workshops focus on mental, not physical, states, Bombardier said.  

Whether you are laughing for real or if it’s a fake laugh, the benefits are the same.– Maude Bombardier

“Whether you are laughing for real or if it’s a fake laugh, the benefits are the same,” Bombardier said. “Your brain gets the messages from your muscles that are engaged from the smiling and the laughing.

“The brain secretes endorphins and then you get the whole shebang. You get stress relief, you get an increase in oxygen, your blood circulation goes. It’s just a really pleasant exercise.”

After doing laughter workshops in schools, public parks and daycares for the past few years, Bombardier realized there was a growing demand and decided to make it her full-time job. She became officially certified as a laugh yoga instructor and launched her business earlier this year. 

But Bombardier wasn’t always a believer. She felt uneasy at her inaugural laughter workshop a few years ago and admits it took her a while to get the joke.

“At the beginning, I thought it was really weird because a bunch of people that I didn’t know were laughing together for no reason and I said, ‘Where am I? Why am I here?’

“But by the time I left, I just wanted to be friends with everyone.”

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