Classes laughing away the pain
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.