Laughter yoga could be the best medicine

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Joanna Toner, who specialises in stress management, will have you splitting your sides at her new class - laughter yoga - which will begin at the Bridge Community Centre at the end of the month.

Joanna, who moved to Lisburn from England 13 years ago, had difficulty in finding long term employment due to her blindness.

After delivering training courses for RNIB and fundraising for Guide Dogs for the Blind, she decided to expand on her counselling and stress management qualifications.

“When you are blind it is difficult to find work so I thought I would try to go self employed,” explained Joanna.

“I have a qualification in counselling and a diploma in stress management. My intention was always to add other qualifications as I am a big believer that there is more than one way of doing something.

“Laughter yoga came up and I thought I would give it a go. It has been around since 1995 and was invented in India by a cardiologist to find an alternative way to treat his patients.

“At first I thought it was a new age fad but when I got the training programme and started to see the scientific evidence that it is truly something that can help people I knew I needed to add it to my skills.”

Everyone knows the phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine’ but according to Joanna, fake laughter is just as beneficial as the genuine thing.

“Laughter is the best medicine but faking it can get you there as well,” explained Joanna.

“There is significant evidence that shows that just ten to fifteen minutes of laughter can give you up to two hours of pain relief.”

During the laughter yoga class Joanna will explain the benefits of laughter, before going through some laughter exercises, followed by deep breathing exercises and the session will finish with relaxation exercises.

“Laughter yoga is suitable for anybody over the age of eight, regardless of your physical fitness or any limitations due to a disability,” continued Joanna. “It is referred to as Yoga because of the breathing exercises it incorporates.

“This is a really fun way to reduce your stress levels, you don’t need to have a sense of humour just a willingness to give something different a try.”

One of the participants in the taster sessions that Joanna held in Lisburn before Christmas admitted he was sceptical when he first went along to the class but he was quickly won over.

“It was with a sense of open-minded scepticism that I attended a recent Laughter Yoga workshop in Lisburn with a small group of others,” he said.

“Following the workshop leader Jo’s entertaining yet thought provoking guidance, I found myself and the others in the small group falling about laughing - just like we used to do with our mates when we were kids.

“The session worked for me in that it achieved exactly what it set out to do.

“You won’t regret spending a short but enjoyable hour or two re-living what it was like to be younger and sillier, and feeling all the better as a result.”

The first of the monthly classes will be held in the Bridge Community Centre on Friday Janauary 29 at 11am. The class lasts for one hour and costs £5.

Anyone interested in welcome to turn up on the day. Alternatively, Joanna can be contacted for further information on 07746 629159.