Classes laugh­ing away the pain

Central Leader - - NEWS - By ELE­SHA ED­MONDS

Laugh un­til you feel bet­ter.

That’s ex­actly what Gavin Parish did as he re­cov­ered from a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent which left him paral­ysed.

The for­mer fire­fighter suf­fered a spinal cord in­jury in a mo­tor­bike ac­ci­dent nine years ago and spent months re­cov­er­ing at Auck­land’s Spinal Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Unit in Otara.

Dur­ing that time a friend took Parish to a laugh­ter yoga class to give him a break from re­hab.

‘‘I was wor­ried about whether peo­ple in the class would ac­cept me in a wheel­chair,’’ he says.

‘‘Of course they were so caught up laugh­ing that they just ac­cepted me as part of the team.

‘‘That’s the thing with laugh­ter, it re­ally breaks down bar­ri­ers.’’

Parish says laugh­ter yoga gave him an op­por­tu­nity to feel good ev­ery week.

He even­tu­ally trained as a laugh­ter yoga in­struc­tor and now runs ses­sions at the Amitabha Hos­pice in the Auck­land sub­urb of Avon­dale.

The hos­pice has been run­ning laugh­ter yoga at its weekly com­mu­nity group for pa­tients across Auck­land.

Many of the pa­tients have suf­fered a stroke or have can­cer.

The group’s co-or­di­na­tor Joop van Herk says the pur­pose of the group is to al­low the pa­tients to con­nect with one another and give them some­thing to look for­ward to.

‘‘A lot of these pa­tients out in the com­mu­nity are very iso­lated and due to their ill­ness and of­ten old age have lost con­tact with the out­side world and suf­fer from de­pres­sion,’’ she says.

Van Herk says the pa­tients en­joy laugh­ter yoga be­cause it dis­tracts them from their pain.

Mari Dean, 81, says she at­tends the group to net­work with other pa­tients.

‘‘They just can’t keep me away,’’ she says.

‘‘We have a good laugh and come away feel­ing very en­ter­tained.’’

Stud­ies show that forced laugh­ter can re­lease the same en­dor­phins as real laugh­ter, Parish says.

Laugh­ter yoga uses a for­mula to get peo­ple to laugh for no rea­son which in­cludes eye con­tact, ‘‘child­like play­ful­ness’’ and dif­fer­ent breath­ing tech­niques.

‘‘Stim­u­lated laugh­ter quickly be­comes real laugh­ter,’’ Parish says.

Laugh­ter yoga first be­gan in classes held in Mum­bai in 1995.

Gavin Parish is watched by Paul Protheroe as he leads laugh­ter yoga at Amitabha Hos­pice.

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