by Beth Heller, M.S., RYT
On April 26 we are offering a free Laughter Yoga class at Pulling Down the Moon in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week . I can imagine that some people might be offended by the idea. Infertility is no laughing matter.
On some level that’s true – but on another it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I can remember sitting out on the steps in front of my RE’s office after a bad ultrasound the day before Mother’s Day early on in my fertility journey. I ran into my friend Heather at the office – she was starting her second IVF cycle – and she sat with me as I cried.
“On the bright side, Beth,” she said. ”We can go out together on Mother’s Day and drink martinis and eat raw fish!” The need to avoid sushi was something that had concerned both of us about being pregnant back in the days when we thought pregnancy would be easy to achieve. Now raw fish was our consolation prize. I don’t know why but that struck us both as enormously funny at the time and we laughed until we could barely breathe. Sad as I was that my cycle had failed, I felt worlds better after that laugh.
The ability to laugh is one of our most profound self-healing skills. Little kids laugh simply because it feels good and it makes them happy. As adults we lose this spontaneity and, in turn, lose connection to the well-spring of physical, emotional and even spiritual benefits of laughter. ”Mirthful laughter” has been shown to help reduce chronic pain, improve immune response, alleviate depression and improve cardio-vascular health. To thicken the plot, it seems that laughter may improve IVF outcomes. Researchers in Israel followed 229 women and found that a 15 minute visit from a trained "medical clown" immediately after embryo transfer increased the pregnancy rate to 36%, compared with 20% for women whose embryo transfer was comedy free.
So how might laughter help fertility? Perhaps by stimulating the relaxation response. When people are stressed they tend to take shallow breaths. Extending the exhale (which is exactly what laughter is – HA HA HA HA – gasp for breath – HA HA HA HA) has a profound effect on blood chemistry. Breathing patterns that emphasize the exhale increase blood CO2 levels. This change in blood chemistry relaxes blood vessels and promotes blood flow to the brain as well as the release of oxygen from the hemoglobin into the tissues. In addition, laughter stimulates beta-endoprhins, our feel-good chemicals. Interestingly, these are similar benefits to those believed to result from acupuncture treatment that is also associated with improved success of IVF cycles.
From the yogic perspective, laughter plays an equally important role. Inside each of us, yoga teaches, is a core of joy. This core is clouded by negative thought patterns and what we have allowed to become the daily grind of our existence. If we can connect to that spark of joy, yoga teaches, it can begin to transform – even “burn away” – the negativity that has grown up around it. Laughter sparks that joy. It begins a profound process of coming back to our own innate radiance.
So, come and join us for Laughter Yoga on Tuesday April 26 from 7 to 8 p.m. The class is free. This class will combine breathing and spontaneous laughter that will create an amazing shift in the chemistry of your body and brain. We provide a silly, safe and nurturing environment for you to explore this wonderful practice and leave smiling.
Click here to register!