THEY say laughter is the best medicine, and at Knutsford’s very own laughter club there is no doubting the theory.

Headed by effervescent trainer Sara Kay, the Knutsford club meets twice a week at the Methodist Church, and last week welcomed another new member as the Guardian went along to try it out.

Laughter yoga, designed by Indian doctor Madan Kataria 22 years ago, has grown into a global phenomenon whereby laughter exercises are combined with deep breathing to relieve stress and improve levels of endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine.

Sara, who started the club in December, said: “We laugh without any reason. We don’t use jokes, humour or comedy. We create laughter with that childlike playfulness, eye contact, movement and willingness.

“We get rid of any seriousness from day to day life. It lowers stress levels by about 48 per cent and we should be deep belly-laughing every day, because all these benefits stay inside your body for up to 24 hours.

“If you laugh every day you become a complete calm person.”

The seven-strong group begins the session sat in a circle, warming up with the help of drums and small bursts of chanted laughter followed by breathing exercises.

On our feet and in a larger activity space, introductions take place – albeit not in the conventional manner. Handshakes are exchanged, but pleasantries are replaced with eye contact and laughter.

Sara then tailors the session, taking participants’ stress-inducing scenarios and creating a way of laughing at them alongside core activities such as making ‘laughter milkshakes’, ‘milking the cow’ and performing circus acts.

We ‘drive’ around the room laughing at traffic lights and speedbumps. Using no props we pass around a ‘phone’ and show one another our ‘bank statements’, laughing at things that could cause stress in our day-to-day lives.

Deep breathing exercises are wedged between each activity, and short bursts of laughter and clapping in unison ring around the room. Eye contact is also a focus of the hour-long session, creating ‘caring and sharing’ relationships within the group and beyond it.

Sara says she stumbled across laughter yoga last March, when it helped her emerge from a tough stage of her life.

She said: “I suffered from depression and was given medication. In March I went to a ladies’ wellbeing event, where there was something on laughter. We just laughed without anything at all, and released all that tension. It was amazing and I felt really light afterwards.

“I went along to a couple of clubs in Manchester and thought ‘I just need to do this, because I know it’s going to help me.’ I stopped taking the tablets and trained to be a leader, and found my vocation. I just thought ‘this is what I want to do’.

“I had had a marriage where I hardly laughed for 20 years, and it was just about finding something that I could do to make it better.”

With 10,000 laughter yoga clubs across 100 countries, Sara is now hoping to spread the craze to places such as schools and offices.

See the weekly ‘What’s On’ section in the Knutsford Guardian for the club’s upcoming sessions.

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