During the 1960s, Norman Cousins, the former editor of the Saturday
Review magazine, was diagnosed with a progressive degenerative
disease. In his book, "Anatomy of an Illness," he describes
how he helped to cure himself using massive doses of laughter.
Dr. Cindy Solliday-McRoy, a behavioral psychologist with Wheaton
Franciscan Healthcare who practices at Elmbrook Memorial Hospital,
truly believes that laughter is the best medicine. She’s currently
the only person in the state who’s certified as a laughter yoga
instructor. "My chosen expertise as a health psychologist is
mind/body medicine," she explains, referring to the rather
Laughter yoga functions exactly as the name implies. It combines
some of the deep breathing and basic stretching of a structured yoga
routine with simulated laughter.
The concept originated in India a decade ago, when an internist
named Dr. Madan Kataria was conducting some research on the benefits
of laughter to heart health. Laughing, it seemed, could produce the
same benefits as several minutes of jogging without the stress on the
joints. He applied it to a yoga routine and created a new therapy.
"Laughing works up the lungs and heart, strengthens the immune
system, thins the blood and dilates the blood vessels," says
Solliday-McRoy. "It’s a really quick fix and the effects last
for days." One 20- or 30-minute session will have a positive
impact on the body’s physiology for several days. "And you don’t
have the iatrogenic effects of the medications in your body," she
Laughter has also been documented as a tool to help sufferers of
depression and anxiety. "It releases a whole host of chemicals in
the body," says Solliday-McRoy of the therapy.
Interested in the concept? Solliday-McRoy is teaching a free,
one-hour class on the second Thursday of every month. The class meets
on the fifth floor conference room at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Wauwatosa,
201 N. Mayfair Road. Preregister at (888) 994-3286.
While mind-body medicine is still in its infancy, results like
those from laughter yoga are hard to ignore. Perhaps a future doctor
might write on his prescription pad, "Watch two hours of Comedy
Central and call me in the morning."