To some, laughter yoga may be a strange concept, but for instructor Karen Siugzda, it changed her life. After attending only one class, the experience Siugzda had made her want to become an instructor and spread positivity through the healing factor of laughter.
“The basic premise of laughter yoga is to laugh on purpose without using jokes or comedy,” said Siugzda. “I discovered laughter yoga about nine years ago. I was going through a really hard time in my life and I decided to try it. I thought it was interesting. People aren’t used to intentionally laughing.
“The experience I had from that first class was incredible and I knew I had to share this with others,” Siugzda continued. “In the span of that hour that I shared with other people, I felt uplifted and it reduced a lot of stress.”
Siugzda later went on to obtain a dual certification in 2012 as both a certified laughter yoga leader as well as certified laughter wellness instructor. In 2017, she became a certified laughter yoga teacher and has tasked herself with bringing healing laughter to communities and corporate environments alike.
“Laughter yoga was started in 1995 by a person named Dr. Madan Kataria,” said Siugzda. “It has really grown since then and it provides a lot of health benefits. It’s exercise. There’s breathing exercises that allow fresh oxygen to come into the body. It’s empowering, it helps the immune system, it normalizes your blood pressure, reduces stress, eases anxiety and allows you to connect with others.”
Siugzda begin teaching classes at the Cinnaminson Library about a year and a half ago and holds a class every second Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. According to Siugzda, a typical class doesn’t include any actual yoga. The class will begin seated on the floor and start with breathing exercises before moving toward laughter exercises
These laughter exercises include going around the room while shaking hands and laughing, incorporating music to move the body while laughing or doing chore-like activities, but instead of making them feel like chores they laugh and smile to create positive mindsets.
“The library reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to teach a class,” said Siugzda. “I have a lot of fun and there’s a bunch of regulars that come. No two sessions are the same. It’s something really nice to do on Wednesday to get you through that midweek hump.
“I really love leading these laughter yoga classes,” Siugzda continued. “I always try to lead them from my first experience. I understand that the first time it feels odd and that people aren’t used to laughing on purpose. I’m really grateful that I can lead a class and bring out that inner joy and inner child we have inside of us. A lot of the time adults get overly serious and stressed and they stay stuck in that serious mode, but this allows you to be more playful.
“It’s adult recess,” said Siugzda. “It’s about positivity in general, and when you allow yourself to feel that it has a ripple effect on everyone else. Everyone feels that positivity.”
For more information about Karen Siugzda or laughter yoga, participants can visit her website at Laughterwellnesswithkaren.com