Bay Area seniors participate in laughing yoga for good health

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- You may have heard of hot yoga, hip-hop yoga, even yoga with goats, but how about something a little... funnier? A class being offered to seniors is giving a whole new meaning to the to the term "laughter is the best medicine."

At the On Lok Lifeway senior center, instead of yoga mats and downward dogs, there are chairs and walkers during their monthly yoga class.

Stay for a while and soon you'll hear guttural chuckles coming from the more than 25 participants.

"Laugh it out! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha," the certified laughter yoga leader and nurse Muriah Germano beams.

This is laughter yoga, a practice created by a doctor in India, focusing on stretching, chanting, clapping and a good chuckle to encourage playfulness.

The effects are apparent as the class progresses.

"They start feeling more comfortable with the exercises, I see the barriers of being kind of shy break down," says Muriah .

Nichola Sager, the activity therapy specialist at On Lok, has seen a positive change in the seniors since the program started a couple months ago.

"We noticed the seniors responded very well. Their energy changes and they were actually connecting as a group."

It's an activity that can be done in just 20 minutes, no matter your age or what language you speak.

A 97-year-old Chinese woman spoke using an interpreter saying she enjoys being with her friends.

For the seniors, laughing yoga is more than just something to keep them occupied. Muriah says there are a myriad of health benefits.

"Laughter yoga is cardiovascular. It provides stress relief and increases your happy hormones and it also has been linked to the reduction in pain."

The practice was started in 1995 by a doctor in India and has since grown in popularity across the globe among all age ranges.

"When I see people smiling or more engaged, more awake and attentive, more energized, I count that as a win!" says Nicholas.

The monthly class has been so popular at On Lok, the center is hoping to start offering it weekly.
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