A group of 50 students and teachers holding hands and skipping around the quad on the campus of IPFW makes a pretty strong contrast to the 1000 pair of shoes lined up on campus to represent the number of students who had committed suicide in America over the previous year. But the contrast was intentional, as Lee Wilcher was invited to provide a laughter yoga class outside in the school square as part of Mental Health Day in October of this year.
Because the body is unable to tell the difference between fake and real laughter, the beneficial physiological and psychological results occur whether the person is actually laughing or just going through the motions of laughter. The practice of Laughter Yoga combines breathing, stretching and laughter exercises to achieve the benefits of a good laugh, even if you don't feel like laughing. The practices of Laughter Yoga actually release the endorphins that can lower stress levels, lower heart rates and blood pressure, and contribute to an increased feeling of well-being.
At IPFW's Mental Heath Day, the class hula hooped to the Macarena; they learned several laughter greetings; they practiced "milkshake laughter"; and did HoHoHaHa dances to Indian Music. They also learned several "value added" exercises to teach appreciation and social skills. Lee said the class was extremely well received and that several participants expressed interest in starting a Laughter Yoga Club on campus. What a great way to introduce the technique of Laughter Yoga to this population--college students--so deeply in need of de-stressing.