Humor and Health – Interview with Laughter Yoga Leader Betty Mendez
This week MyHyena.com had the pleasure of interviewing certified laughter yoga leader and Reiki Master Betty Mendez.
Betty is the founder of Everyday Spirituality, where she inspires wellness through various programs including breathwork, meditation, drumming, and of course laughter yoga.
What made you decide to be involved in laughter yoga?
I first experienced Laughter Yoga at a local cancer center that offers a Mind-Body Wellness Series for patients and the public. As a Reiki Master practitioner and educator, I am always continuing my education of all things health-related. What I experienced with laughter yoga was the purest, most child-like and genuine laughter. It made me realize that I had not enjoyed that type of laughter in a long, long time.
I became a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader and began offering classes in 2010 at our local arthritis aquatic center. I love the adaptability of laughter yoga exercises and how they can be tailored to focus on specific dimensions (cross-brain training, eye-hand coordination, range of motion, cardio-vascular workout), or various populations (schools, senior centers, health/fitness centers, medical clinics/hospitals, cancer centers, prisons, corporate, or support groups).
What was your profession before you dedicated yourself to the healing profession?
In June of 2007, I walked away from a wonderful but very stressful Human Resources career. I experienced the loss of three employees, one right after the other, which created an even greater level of stress with this huge sense of loss. That you could say was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Upon separating, I realized I needed to find a way to heal my “whole” body–my physical body as well as my mind and spirit. It was at that time that I tried laughter yoga and also researched Reiki therapy for stress relief. It was so interesting to me that both the laughter therapy and the Reiki therapy provided similar benefits of promoting relaxation and relieving stress thus allowing the body’s self-healing mechanism to engage.
From that point on, it became my life’s work and passion to share the foundation of an “everyday practice” built upon Reiki, laughter yoga, meditation, and breathing. I began Everyday Spirituality to educate others in what I know for sure–which is, that a healthy spirit is essential for a healthy body, and with the use of these techniques, one can move towards balance and help bring well-being to the mind, body and spirit.
Can you share any funny, unusual, or unforgettable incidences that have happened in one of your laughter yoga sessions?
I think the most unforgettable incidences are when I see the immediate social bonds that are formed through the universal language of laughter. Great, lasting friendships are made through our shared laughter and also as we share positive affirmations for ourselves and one another at the end of each session.
Do you have any examples in your life (or the life of someone you know) when humor or laughter helped get you (or he/she) through some hard times?
Oh yes. One of my laughter yoga students is a teacher of special needs students. Once she experienced my class, she knew she had to incorporate it into her classroom as well. She wrote me, “I added laughter yoga on our job chart at school. We have a laughter yoga coach who gets to pick a laughter exercise or two. The kids love it and it changes the whole environment of the class. Thank you for that gift.”
Another example of how laughter yoga helps us through hard times is when we are going through the grieving process. One participant shared this with me, “I did not feel like getting out of bed today but I made myself come here, and I am so glad I did.” Her mood was lifted even in the midst of grieving. It was great validation that laughter–whether contrived or real–can help us heal at every level.
What makes you laugh?
Being in class with all my Laughter Yogi’s and Yogini’s!!
Each brings their own style of laughter and creativity of expression with each laughter exercise. We begin with the tamer exercises and work our way up to the wilder ones. Visualize how you’d share your laughter “voice” in these exercises:
- The Forgiveness Laughter; a gentle laughter of forgiveness.
- The Namaste Laughter; greeting your partner with laughter as to say, “the good in me, sees the good in you.”
Some others need no explanation: Hot Sand Laughter, Sumo Wrestler Laughter, or Air Guitar Laughter. In between, we swing and clap hands in the air, and break often to inhale and exhale, breathing deeply to oxygenate the body. It’s just a great overall and internal workout!
If you could give a person one tip, strategy, or piece of advice on how to bring more humor or laughter in their lives, what would that be?
Seek it out. Join a laughter yoga group, watch comedy or laugh with an online laughter club. When the stress is overwhelming…just stop what you’re doing and start up your laughter engine…with little spurts and giggles…growing into chuckles and then into all out side-splitting guffaws. I do it in my car all the time.
If you can’t join a group that meets weekly, there are phone and on-line laughter
yoga clubs available. Find more information at www.laughteryogaamerica.com.
Thank you, Betty, for all the hard work you do to spread the healing power of humor. We at MyHyena.com solute you.
For those that live in around Bakersfield, CA, you can participate in a laughter yoga session at Natural Options, 2020 20th Street. Betty and another instructor, Anna Murillo, offer classes on Monday at 5:30pm, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 6:30am, and Wednesdays at 6:00pm. All classes are for all levels of fitness.
You can contact Betty directly at 661-319-0994 or visit her website at www.everydayspiritualityonline.com.