By Kaytlyn Leslie
The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)
Marcia Alter has a huge, booming laugh that echoes throughout the recreation room of the Cortina D’Arroyo Grande senior apartment complex.
“Oh I love that laughter lotion,” she says as she pantomimes putting lotion on her face before letting out a loud guffaw. A group of about a dozen women in a circle around her also start laughing as they mimic her movements.
Even as she moves throughout the circle, surrounded by chortling women, Alter’s distinctive belly laugh echoes off the tall ceiling of the recreation room.
But she didn’t always laugh like that. For a time, the most she could summon up was a small exhalation of breath.
“I call it my dark ages,” Alter said as she leaned back in her chair after the women left. “Even if it was hysterically funny, the most I could go was, ‘ha.’ I was having constant colds, and I was working full time. But I knew about these laughter classes. So one Friday I dragged myself to one of them.”
Alter emerged from those classes a different person, she said.
“An hour later I was so energized, I was walking up to people I had never met saying, ‘Let’s go to the bar!’ ” she laughed. “I don’t do that! So I was definitely hooked.”
Five years ago, she and fellow Arroyo Grande resident Caity McCardell became certified to teach laughter yoga classes, which they followed up with laughter wellness certification this year. The pair now teach four classes each week in Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo.
Wellness and yoga
Laughter wellness and yoga focus on using laughter to improve people’s lives, both mentally and physically, McCardell said.
Laughter yoga is the older of the two methods: it was developed by Indian physician Madan Katarina as an exercise activity in the mid-1990s, and usually involves people taking part in silly games to stimulate laughter, McCardell said.