• Comic relief
    February 04,2013

    No one said “Shssss!” or “Quiet!”

    It was Sunday, even before the Cutler Memorial Library in Plainfield officially opened for the day, and inside, seven women were laughing their heads off. We’re talking slapping their thighs, doing high fives, barely catching their breath, and sometimes laughing to the point of sounding like excited monkeys, clucking chickens, and snorting donkeys.

    That was the idea. Librarian Loona Brogan, of South Woodbury, approved of the ruckus. In fact, Brogan was there taking part in the bedlam, even laughing the hardest at times, “like a rooster,” she said.

    “We forget to tell the people who live upstairs,” Brogan said at one point, then added “Well, I’m sure they can read the sign outside” which announced the laughter yoga session.

    Yes: laughter yoga. It was the first of what will be a monthly event at the tiny library, led by instructor Erika Hogan of Plainfield, who said she only leads yoga sessions for fun, and doesn’t charge a fee. She finds laughter yoga particularly uplifting for some folks who get emotionally bogged down in the winter months, or suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

    “Laughter is the opposite of depression, right?” asked Hogan, rhetorically.

    Hogan started the women (the sessions are open to men, too) with warm-up exercises for voice and body —— including stretching, slapping hands, shaking, and making funny noises. Then she had them purposely try to make laughing sounds like animals, which fueled the giggles, cackles, and chortles even more. Hogan then asked the participants to try to laugh in an “inappropriate” way, or in a fashion one might laugh when they’re not supposed to.

    Further snickering, snorting, and general bemusement ensued.

    “I can’t remember the last time I laughed inappropriately,” said Dena Cox of Marshfield, who then added, “Wait — I think it was in church!”

    Hogan had the class plunge into a full-blown laughing exercise for a good 15 minutes, marked by some ebb and flow and, at times, the sense of waves of laughter crashing down around the room. Then she wrapped up the session with some cool-down exercises and meditation.

    Hogan usually teaches what she described as gentle Hatha yoga, involving moderate physical exercise. Laughter yoga, Hogan said, introduces much more of a social element to the practice, as participants feed off each other’s laughter energy — especially as members get to know each other over time and tap into what they know tickles their respective funny bones. It’s all good therapy when cabin fever sets in.

    “I feel like a load has been lifted off my back,” said a smiling Cox after the session, as she donned her jacket to go back out into the cold.

    Brogan said the library plans to hold monthly laughter yoga sessions with Hogan, the first Sunday of each month. The next time, then, should be Sunday, March 3.

    Fair warning for the people upstairs.

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