Laughter Yoga Is Beneficial for People with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease
Katarina Lahovnik, MD, specialist of family medicine and the head of the medical department in the Topolšica Spa, is the initiator of introduction of laughter yoga as a complementary therapy in the Topolšica Spa. Among other things, the Spa is specialized for the rehabilitation of persons with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Let's see what she thinks about laughter yoga.
Laughter therapy or laughter yoga is a fairly new thing in the Topolšica Spa, where you specialize in the rehabilitation of people who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Why did you, as a leader of health department in Topolšica, decide to include laughter yoga in your program and what effects have you noticed on your patients?
“The reason why I started thinking about laughter yoga was the visit of Mrs Simona Krebs in the Topolščica Natural Spa, as a part of education of young people with Multiple Sclerosis. She introduced me to laughter yoga and equipped me with the professional literature. As I read, it inspired me. The executive director of the Spa, Lidija Fijavž Špeh, was also thrilled with the idea and we soon agreed on the first dates of laughter yoga therapy in a Topolšica Natural Spa. I attended it together with the head nurse Eva Rozenstein.
Given the effects that I noticed, it seemed ideal for all, but especially for our neurological patients who are often depressed. Also, people with Parkinson's disease have less distinct facial expressions and they rarely laugh. After laughter yoga, all participants are more relaxed, they have rosy cheeks, they warm up and even after the therapy they express satisfaction. "
Dr Lahovnik, you also experienced and felt laughter yoga. Can you describe how you felt; was it unusual, how long did you feel the effect?
“When I went to the training, I've already had some theoretical knowledge and I expected what it would look like. It is great that before the training, everyone gets information why laughter is important and they then have more positive attitude towards laughter yoga.
I immediately "fell in". Nothing I did seemed unusual. It had been a long time since I laughed so hard. After it, I felt comfortable, relaxed and a bit tired, but when I came home, I was charged with positive energy.
Laughter yoga changed my life for the better and gave me additional positive motivation. I also try to transfer laughter to family members. I use it for self-motivation and in the morning, when I sit in the car, I laugh at myself and try to gain positive attitude towards all obligations I have that day.
I'm trying to bring it closer to all our guests and I often take over the role of laughter yoga promoter in our Spa.”
How often do you have trainings and who can join?
“We do it once a week and it is available to all guests of the Topolšica Natural Spa. We also offer it for groups in adapted times and use it for team buildings. In short, this is a workout that is great for all those who are ready to "open" for it. We will also present it on 31 May 2014, when the meeting of patients with diabetes will be held in our Spa. Surely, laughter yoga is an excellent exercise for them because it lowers blood sugar, regulates blood pressure and increases the levels of serotonin in the brain and thus reduces the chances of depression, which is common disease with chronic patients.”
Nurses Eva and Katja perform trainings. They have gained expertise and certification for laughter therapists or laughter yoga trainers on the International Institute of Laughter. How is the exercise carried out? Is it necessary to take into account any specific limitations due to illnesses?
“Nurses Katja and Eva are both flexible and resourceful and they know how to carry out laughter yoga in such a way that even those who have trouble with physical activity and get tired quickly can relax, laugh and feel good after the training. They also adjust laughter yoga according to special occasions and holidays, for example, for Valentine's Day they colored everything in red and added hearts.”
Can hotel guests also join the training? How do they feel after it? What are their responses?
“Of course they can join and the responses are great.”
Do you perform laughter yoga in your practice, during your regular work?
“Every patient wants to be greeted by a smiling and relaxed doctor who will treat them with empathy and really help them. I smile at every patient upon their arrival and I introduce myself, then a conversation on a number of health problems posed by chronic progressive, neurodegenerative diseases develops. Laughter does not belong there. However, if there's an opportunity to laugh, I always take it. It creates a more relaxed atmosphere in which patients can tell even those health problems that are otherwise difficult to talk about.”
Do you think that after the introduction of laughter yoga the atmosphere in the Spa and in the nursing collective changed?
“Laughter yoga brought a lot of relaxed laughter to the nursing collective. Professional staff and a relaxed and positive atmosphere have had a positive effect on patients in the nursing unit. At first, they are a little embarrassed, but then they laugh more and the rehabilitation is more efficient. They often say, when they leave, that they rarely meet such cheerful and friendly nurses. Executive director has already given the idea that laughter yoga should be performed for all employees and we will certainly do it.”
World Laughter Day takes place on the first Sunday of May of every year. This year it will be celebrated in Koper for the 4th time. Will you somehow celebrate it in the Spa?
“We will carry out a free training of laughter yoga on that day, otherwise it costs 7 € per person. The local newspaper Naš Čas (Our Time), will present laughter yoga and invite readers to join us and invitations will also be sent to our Facebook friends. Nurses Katja and Eva are already hatching up plans on how to further "spice up" laughter yoga on this important day. I believe that we will have great fun and laugh really hard.”