Laugh your way to a healthier, happier self
Tess discovered Laughter Yoga quite by accident but has become a firm follower, thanks to it being open to all, and its multiple benefits. She has also trained to become a practitioner herself and now uses the healing power of laughter to help others achieve a healthier, happier self.
With a special interest in inclusivity and wellness at work, Tess launched her own business, the Laughter Locker, in 2018 as a way to ensure everyone – no matter what their physical abilities – could access a form of exercise. She now works with a wide range of clients including corporate teams, health and social care groups, care homes, choirs, individuals and charities delivering a variety of workshops and bespoke sessions to fit their needs.
“There are so many benefits to Laughter Yoga,” says Tess, who has Lipoedema – a chronic disease characterised by abnormal excess tissue in the hip region, upper and lower leg area – arthritis and a damaged back and shoulder following a couple of accidents when she was younger, which all limit the type and amount of exercise she is able to do.
“When I joined a Laughter Yoga club, I found I could join in fully, within my own limitations, whilst still gaining the full benefits a Laughter Yoga workout can bring. And having felt the benefits of it myself, I decided I wanted to share them with others.
“The beauty is that you do not even need to laugh at something – you can still do the action if you are unhappy. But when you laugh, you release endorphins and serotonin, these are feel-good hormones, which physically make you feel better and in turn can have an amazing impact on your emotional and mental well-being.
“You’re using your lungs more – we use very little of our lung capacity, but by taking in more air we are feeding our bodies more oxygen, which means we’re able to work and sleep better all round.”
A relatively new concept, Laughter Yoga was devised in the 1990s by Dr Madan Kataria, an Indian medic, who noticed that the heart patients he made laugh tended to recover more quickly. He started combining the laughter with yogic breathing techniques, movement and singing to develop what is now known worldwide as Laughter Yoga.
“Due to my mobility, I’m not able to do any weight-bearing exercise,” explains Tess, who lives near Spalding. “It was quite hard to find something that I could do. I enjoyed swimming but it was difficult to access facilities – I was getting pretty desperate.
“I was at a conference where we did a session of lymphatic yoga on a chair, which I really enjoyed, but it was another few months before I came across Laughter Yoga, while I was looking for something else online.
“There was a lady running sessions in Bourne, so I booked in, although to be honest I wasn’t really keen on the whole idea – I thought it wasn’t me at all. But, after one session I felt so much better – there was definitely something in it!
“It’s great fun, surprisingly physically demanding – lots of people are a bit sceptical, thinking it’s not for them but they come away having really enjoyed it and feeling better. I wanted to know how it worked, so I took a course aimed at showing people how to teach it. That was really for my own understanding.
“Then I gave a demonstration at a Lipoedema conference and everyone seemed quite interested, even the healthcare professionals, and that’s when the seed of an idea about launching my own business started to form.”
Tess says Laughter Yoga has multiple benefits and can help lower the level of stress hormones in the blood, it fosters a positive and hopeful attitude and can also help the healing process and strengthen the immune system.
Tess, who has a background in development and training, says the techniques used can also help with pain management and adds it is also a powerful antidote to depression, reducing blood pressure and symptoms of allergies and asthma too.
She also uses the Balance Procedure in her work and helps others to learn this ground-breaking practice too.
Tess says by utilising their own energies it helps people transform any limiting emotional patterns they may have learnt and with daily practice allows them to focus on what they really want, bringing achievement of their goals into reality.
During the Covid pandemic Tess has found that many people need her services more than ever, but unfortunately due to social distancing restrictions and concerns regarding her own health, her face-to-face sessions have been put on hold until it is safe for them to resume.
She has switched to running online and virtual workshops, which are proving a huge hit – including regular sessions through The RVS (Royal Voluntary Service) Virtual Village Hall group on Facebook. This group draws in participants from all over the country and beyond, and Tess has seen her viewing figures soar.
She is also about to launch her own virtual VIP Zoom Club, which she hopes will become an inclusive online community for all.
“The idea is that people will be able to access so many sessions per month and we’ll be able to build up a real online community. If it takes off, it would be something that I would like to carry on with, even when face-to-face sessions are able to resume,” adds Tess.
“There are lots of benefits to Laughter Yoga. It would be lovely if some doctors started referring their patients for sessions – people that are unable to do normal exercise, those who have things they want to overcome, I think they could really benefit.
“The fantastic thing for me is being able to help people, people who are a bit disadvantaged and who do not get included in things all the time. That’s what it’s all about – inclusivity.
“Helping people who are normally unable to exercise find something that they enjoy, to be part of a community and enjoy social interaction.”
To find out more about Laughter Yoga and its benefits visit inthelaughterlocker.com