SHE: Laughter is truly the best medicine

By Stacie Smith • Last Updated 1:28 pm on Thursday, July 26, 2012

Laughter Yoga is a relatively new practice developed by Indian medical physician Madan Kataria, who was seeking a way to help his patients who were sick and depressed about being sick.

Angela Dykes of Greenville first heard of Laughter Yoga when she was volunteering with the inaugural Laughfest in 2011. She was looking through a list of activities being offered during the comedy festival benefiting Gilda’s Club of West Michigan. Dykes had practiced yoga before and was intrigued by the inclusion of laughter with stretches and poses. She soon discovered that things are not always what they seem.
At her first introduction to Laughter Yoga, Dykes wasn’t sure what to make of a room full of people purposefully laughing without holding a single yoga pose. Initially she was disappointed, but as the week followed, she thought more about what she had learned and decided to return. The practice is termed “laughter yoga” because it involves the beneficial deep breathing and meditative qualities
of yoga.

Angela Dykes of Greenville, who is instructing a new form of yoga, called Laughter Yoga.

Dykes returned to Laughfest 2012 and received certification as a Laughter Yoga leader, which allows her to lead groups in a session. She then decided to travel to Miami to become a certified Laughter Yoga teacher where Kataria was leading his last session in the U.S. Laughter Yoga teachers, in turn, train those who wish to become leaders. Following the lead of her mentor, Dykes would like to incorporate Laughter Yoga into the workplace to help with team cohesiveness and ease tension that can occur among staff.

“In the last year, I have learned that if I am addicted to anything, it is endorphins,” Dykes said. Prior to a life-altering car accident in 2008, Dykes sought endorphins through distance running and working long hours in a challenging career. She ran a full-time private practice in counseling, taught two classes at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and was training for a marathon.


On a Tuesday night in January, she was returning to Greenville from GVSU when she was hit head-on at a high rate of speed on M-57 near Redmond Road. Initially, doctors didn’t think she would survive and then amputation of her lower leg was considered but miraculously she lived and her leg remained intact though a large scar runs from her knee to her ankle.

Rather than succumb to the serious injuries she suffered and the subsequent depression, she actively took control of her life and her health. When she was first introduced to Laughter Yoga, Dykes measured her pain at a five on a scale of one to 10 and she now attributes her improvement to a two, due to the healing power of Laughter Yoga. Her goal is to decrease the number of medications she takes for pain management and eventually eliminate some altogether.

Ultimately Dykes would like to lead a Laughter Yoga group in Greenville. “My dream would be to lead a group at Veteran’s park since it is a high traffic area and cars driving past would want to know what was going on.”

She would also like to include it in counseling sessions once she gets her practice re-established. In the meantime, Dykes has traveled to Colorado to visit her adult daughter, where she leads a session with her daughter and a group of friends. She will also be leading Laughter Yoga sessions at Gilda’s Club of West Michigan twice a month, alternating weeks with another leader.

Dykes passion for Laugher Yoga is contagious and she is excited to share her knowledge with anyone interested in seeking a means to better health, especially those who may have physical limitations that make other forms of activity difficult or impossible to perform.

For those who would like to learn more about Laughter Yoga or would like to be part of a group, contact Angela Dykes at



•    Laughter Yoga is typically practiced with a group of 10 to 15 people.
•    It allows those involved to be less self conscious and more relaxed.
•    Laughter Yoga is beneficial in that it increases blood flow and the body is unable to  recognize real or contrived laughter yet still reaps the rewards. As Dykes explained that it is also difficult to remain angry or dislike someone when laughing with them.
•    Participants move around a room while clapping a specific rhythm, intoning a series of laughter sounds that will promote deep breathing and engage in childlike play.
•    One session typically takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes and then a period of meditation follows to be quiet and reflect on how the mind and body reacted to the session.


SHE is published in The Daily News every third Saturday of the month.


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