New laughter yoga program is having emotional benefits for residents
Pleasant Meadow Manor residents are discovering that laughter truly is the best medicine.
Residents were recently introduced to laughter yoga sessions led by Kim Williams, the Norwood long-term care home’s life enrichment co-ordinator, and they’re seeing first-hand the emotional benefits the program delivers.
Laughter yoga is an exercise that marries voluntary laughter with breathing exercises. During laughter yoga sessions, participants maintain eye contact with one another which leads to contagious laughter.
Kim starts the sessions with a brief history and description of what laughter yoga is to help residents understand how the exercises may help them and to explain that it’s an activity that has been used in the medical profession.
This, she says, is to prevent participants from feeling “silly or foolish” during the exercises.
Kim and the residents then do warm-up exercises which consist of clapping and gently moving their bodies and legs. They then do deep breathing exercises.
They move on to the laughter exercises intermixed with “child-like playfulness,” and some singing. Sessions always include an affirmation which they say as loudly as they can: “I’m awesome, you’re awesome, we’re all awesome.”
Some of the laughter exercises Kim and the residents do include:
Gradient laughter: Everyone starts laughing quietly, gradually becoming louder
Roller-coaster laughter: Residents bring their arms up over their heads while saying “awww.” They then bring their arms down while saying “weee” or laughing
Full-moon laughter: The “favourite” laughter exercise where everyone howls like a wolf
“And of course, Rick (Riel), our maintenance manager, joins us for our Santa Claus laughter and our monkey laughter, which really gets everyone laughing for real and at times can cause tears of laughter,” Kim tells The OMNIway.
Kim learned about laughter yoga when she was a student in the recreation and leisure program at Fleming College and a laughter yoga instructor visited her class.
While admittedly skeptical at first, Kim says she noticed physical benefits after her initial laughter yoga session and even says she slept better that night.
Eventually, she took classes to become a certified laughter yoga instructor.
She first used laughter yoga with residents while working as a life enrichment aide at Frost Manor, where the sessions went over well. In fact, one Frost Manor resident said laughter yoga helped ease the severe anxiety she lived with, Kim notes.
Kim is noticing similar benefits at Pleasant Meadow Manor.
“We have found that our residents’ spirits are lifted, and you can see them smiling throughout the day,” she says.
“The way that I measure the benefits to the residents is that they returned for the next session and ask when the next one will be scheduled.”
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