In March, the Miami Veteran Administration Healthcare System held its first two-day Laughter Yoga Leader training. Once training was complete, 15 employees, including eight RNs, were able to use laughter as an integral teaching tool for stress relief in patients and colleagues.
Laughter Yoga was conceived in Mumbai, India, in 1995 by Madan Kataria, MD. The first Laughter Yoga session, also known as laughter club, was held in March 1995 with just five people. Today, Laughter Yoga is practiced in more than 60 countries with more than 6,000 ongoing laughter clubs.
Laughter Yoga is a unique practice that, ironically, does not rely upon humor to be effective. Participants simulate laughter as a form of physical exercise, which often leads to genuine and contagious laughter. A class session involves stretching, breathing, clapping and chanting, followed by structured laughter exercises that stimulate prolonged and hearty laughter. Most sessions end with a meditation or relaxation exercise.
The new certified yoga leaders, which include Peter Battye, RN, MSN/Ed; Josephine Robbin, RN, BSN, MS, CD; Mercedes Rondon, RN; Rachel Louissaint, RN, BSN; Marcia Doliveira Barros, RN, BSN; Linda Mahoney, RN, BC; Karen Lazarus, RN; and Diane Robateau, ARNP-BC, MSN, CNS, have started laughter clubs for veterans many of whom are dealing with substance abuse issues or diagnoses of HIV, Hep B and C, COPD, HTN, insomnia, depression, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. The leaders have also led one-on-one therapeutic laughter sessions with patients, introduced laughter exercises during staff meetings and offered sessions in community outreach programs.
Lazarus, who works on a busy medical oncology floor, felt the training would help her manage her own stress. She says practicing Laughter Yoga exercises resulted in changed perceptions when dealing with challenging patient issues.
A sense of humor helps break barriers and leads to beneficial conversations and solutions, she says.
Laughter Yoga sessions in staff meetings are used as a stress reliever and a team-building exercise, and veterans who voluntarily attend sessions have commented that the laughter exercises help to open their lungs and relieve depression. The Outpatient Substance Abuse Clinic offers a weekly group and has regular requests from veterans for Laughter Yoga at the onset of other group activities.
After, I just laugh all day, says one veteran.
Rondon, a nurse on the Spinal Cord Injury unit, has incorporated Laughter Yoga at work and uses it at home with her children.
I have noticed how my childrens energy is redirected from acting out to looking forward to a session, she says. They feel a different connection with me in the sense that I remain their disciplinarian, but during our family laughter session they can watch me be silly and laugh for no reason at all.
Participants say that after attending the training they are better able to manage stress, feel more relaxed and smile and laugh more easily. Others report sleeping better, increased energy and improved relationships with coworkers. In addition, the Laughter Yoga leaders comment the practice has contributed to a more positive attitude among co-workers and helps staff deal with difficult patient situations.
For more information on Laughter Yoga visit LaughterYoga.org.