Laughing out loud

Published 4:37 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Vivacious laughter spilled forth from Harrison Regional Library in Columbiana Wednesday.

Its source — the mouths of women sporting multicolored clown wigs and driving make-believe bumper cars.

“At the very beginning you feel self-conscious, but within minutes you forget all about it,” said Betty Randon, who traveled from Orlando, Fla. to visit her sisters and attend the Laughter Yoga workshop. “It’s just so infectious.”

Laughter Yoga caught on with Shelby County Library Director Barbara Roberts after she saw the program at a library conference last summer. In September, Roberts and staff became certified to teach the course.

Outreach Librarian Becky Brasher and Assistant Director Kim Emrick spread the hilarity Wednesday and encouraged participants to host their own sessions.

“We can be your backup singers if you needs us,” Brasher told one woman.

The women giggled off and on for 30 minutes.

They laughed as they pretended to pull off big red noses.

They laughed as they hula-hooped.

They laughed until tears welled up in their eyes and their sides ached.

But Jimmie Rosati of Montevallo felt far from pain when the session ended.

“You always feel so exhilarated,” Rosati said. “It’s just like lifting stress up from your body.”

Rosati works at the circulation desk at Parnell Memorial Library and coordinates senior activities. She now plans to bring laughter to her own town and lighten the spirits of seniors there.

It does more than make you smile, Emrick said.

“There are a ton of benefits,” she said. “Laughter is contagious. If you hear it, it triggers an automatic response in your brain and lowers blood pressure, regulates breathing and reduces stress.”

Emrick said as we get older we get too tense. She said kids laugh 300 to 400 times a day, when adults might laugh five times.

Maybe, Emrick said, more people should join together in a deep breath and a good laugh.