Connie DeLorme, right, leads a laughter yoga session during the Help Our Neighbors health fair in Chatfield on Saturday, Jan. 28, during Chill Fest. 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Connie DeLorme, right, leads a laughter yoga session during the Help Our Neighbors health fair in Chatfield on Saturday, Jan. 28, during Chill Fest. 

Connie DeLorme gets in a seriously contagious workout.

“Laughing has always been part of my life. I guess I never grew up to take myself too seriously. Laughter costs nothing, can be done most places – although not recommended in a funeral home – and can be contagious. Laughter yoga is an alternative to other aerobic exercises,” explained DeLorme.

She led a laughter yoga workout session at the annual Help Our Neighbors (HON) and Olmsted Medical Center (OMC) Health and Wellness Expo in Chatfield during the town’s winter Chill Fest celebration in late January.

DeLorme related that she and her husband ventured to Wisconsin for Valentine’s Day and came home in hysterically good shape after attending a laughter yoga retreat. That experience is what got her interested in rolling in laughter as a means of moving oxygen through her bloodstream to energize every part of her body — from brain to toes.

“As a fun Valentine getaway, I made arrangements for my husband and myself to attend a weekend workshop in Wisconsin. At the end of the three-day workshop, if we could lead a session of laughter yoga, we could become certified laughter yoga leaders,” DeLorme added.

But…laughing…as yoga?

It’s the practice of starting to laugh on purpose through a series of happiness-inspiring hee-heeing and guffawing, according to DeLorme. Using that intentional laughter, individuals work stomach muscles, crank up heart rate, rev up endorphins and generally enjoy oneself instead of slogging to the gym.

She elaborated, “People can be trained. The body cannot tell the difference between laughter from comedic situations and the practiced laughing. I have been relatively healthy, but yoga, if sustained for at least 20 minutes a session and practiced at least three times a week, has been shown to lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, relieve stress and diminish physical pain through endorphin release.”

Personally, she’s benefited from taking in air. “The deep breathing exercises…I have asthma, and working on this aspect has helped my breathing.”

Plus, being in a room full of people laughing for exercise is genuinely rewarding. “The laughter is contagious and the fun makes everyone feel good,” she commented.

There is only one rule to getting a laughter yoga workout, and DeLorme cited, “There should be NO pain when practicing laughter yoga. In fact, people who have had major surgery within the past three months should not participate because of the intensity.”

She’s found there are some challenges to leading laughter yoga sessions, such as being invited to give a primer on great giggling workouts at events such as the HON health fair, but once introduced to the concept, participants can easily find more information online just by logging onto Google or another search engine.

“In Chatfield, I am only presenting one session, and to be effective, sessions should be at least three times a week,” DiLorme said. “People can start laughter yoga anywhere, but I’d recommend training for leadership roles. There are several sites online.”

She pointed out it’s a very unusual but effective way to meet other people and share joy. “I enjoy seeing the smiles and joy of participants who are given permission as part of the session to become childlike in their actions. Occasionally, as I’m grocery shopping, a former participant will approach me with the ‘ho, ho, ha, ha, ha’ part of a session, and then we both laugh.”

Retirement has found DeLorme traveling the globe, so leading yoga sessions is not something she does as often as she used to, but she’s still willing to give of her time.

“I have been retired for quite some time, and we now travel the world,” she reiterated. “If a group wants to donate to a local food shelf or perform some community service and I am available, I will get them started, but my travel takes me away.”

She concluded, “Lap swimming is my preferred exercise, however, my husband and I practice laughter yoga while on car trips. There are some special exercises designed for that situation…I’m sure people in cars passing us must think we’re weird.”

And that’s a laughing matter unto itself.