Using laughter and yoga to help seniors stay active

One group is using laughter to help seniors stay active and happy by combining it with yoga. Even though most people think peace and quiet when it comes to yoga, laughter yoga is the opposite. The louder you laugh the better.

Leah Tunnel is a laughter yoga instructor at Querencia on Barton Creek. For years she's been getting senior residents to break out of their shells.

"If I can just get them to stay for three classes, they're hooked for life. But the first three classes are a little hard because that little voice in your head is going, this is the dumbest thing, but after you do it and you feel the benefit, that's the thing," Tunnel says.

Tunnel says the class was created by an American-trained doctor from India. The doctor's method is now being taught across the world and has been praised by many.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can help reduce stress by stimulating organs. When you laugh you increase your intake of oxygen rich air which stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles.

The breathing of yoga is incorporated into class but for the most part the class is very upbeat.

"I find that she's so joyful that we are too and we can share it. We're encouraged to look at each other and not just the teacher, and it's fun to see how each member that I know here and live here, how they express their joy," student Yvonne Ferris says.

Ann Kirk agrees that it's fun. "Oh it's a hoot actually because we look at each other and we smile and we laugh and there's something very enlightening and very helpful about doing that."

It's easy to see why the seniors are smiling and enjoying themselves and that's what it's all about. Being silly, opening up and laughing.

"I think everybody comes because they know when they leave they're going to feel  better than when they came," Tunnel says. "If we spend our lives all sad then your life is going to be sad, if you practice joy, your life is going to be more joyful."

You don't have to be a resident at Querencia at Barton Creek to participate. Tunnel says you can do it at your own home or even when you're in car.

Tunnel says if you're getting tired it's a good idea to start laughing to oxygenate your lungs. She says that 10 minutes of laughter yoga is equal to 30 minutes on the treadmill.

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