Laughter’s medicine

Johnny Altman

Photo by zong yang

You may jog. You may do sit-ups. You may watch what you eat. You may do whatever it takes to feel better about yourself. But most of the time, these things just aren’t much fun. That’s where laughter yoga steps in. Johnny Altman is a certified laughter-yoga instructor who saw the powerful benefits of the practice after attending workshops in Humboldt County. It was invented by an Indian physician who started a laughter club and ended up tweaking it to become laughter yoga. Altman now offers laughter yoga on Tuesdays, at 7 p.m., at Café Culture on West Fifth Street. For more information about the class, which is free and open to everyone—including children, provided they’re well-behaved—log onto or e-mail Altman at <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,99,104,105,99,111,108,97,117,103,104,116,101,114,121,111,103,97,64,103,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,34,62,99,104,105,99,111,108,97,117,103,104,116,101,114,121,111,103,97,64,103,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,60,47,97,62)) } </script>.

Describe laughter yoga.

Laughter yoga is a series of exercises that involves clapping, combined with laughter, breathing, exercises combined with laughter and just plain laughter all designed to release your inhibitions, lower your ego, take your thoughts out of your mind and more into your body. It moves you from your left side to your right side.

What are some of the basic exercises?

There are clapping exercises that are all standing up except for the very end when we do laughter meditation. You move around and you do different things out of it. You laugh and you smile and it gets the blood flowing and then you have breathing exercises where you get the oxygen moving. The more you get oxygen in, the more therapy you get out of it and the more fun you have. The laughter part should only last 30 minutes or otherwise you’ll be too tired.

What are the benefits?

Just for me personally, you feel invigorated, you feel better, more relaxed about life. Life seems to take a better perspective. All the little serious things just don’t seem so serious anymore. I can drive and get a speeding ticket, and I would just laugh. There are things in life where you can either cry or you can laugh. If you choose to laugh then you just enjoy life better.

How have others responded?

The feedback I got is the same [as I feel]. It also lowers your defenses. There are is so much interaction in the laughter yoga with strangers that you end up feeling more compassion toward other people. You can walk out of a session and see somebody homeless and you see more compassion. You feel closer to humanity.