Interview with Ms Debbie Friend; Certified Laughter Yoga Leader

 Tell us something about Laughter Yoga.
Laughter yoga combines simulated laughter exercises with breathing techniques to produce a wide range of physical, psychological and emotional benefits. Best of all, one doesn’t need a sense of humor, be in a good mood or be happy to reap the numerous rewards. This non-political, non-religious and non-competitive activity is suitable for all age groups and fitness levels. A laughter session consists of a series of three simple and gentle exercises that are repeated one after the other and progressively infused with a lot of childlike playfulness.  Self-induced, simulated laughter can easily be converted into real laughter when done in a group. Laughter is contagious. Sessions usually last from 30 minutes to one hour. No special clothing or equipment is required.

How does laughing improve our health?
There are many positive mental and physical health benefits associated with mirthful laughter. Mood becomes elevated. Anxiety and depression are decreased. The stress hormones —cortisol, epinephrine and dopamine are reduced, while endorphins— the body’s natural painkillers, are raised. Muscle tension is alleviated. The immune system is enhanced.  Blood pressure is lowered.  Hearty laughter produces an internal workout by exercising the diaphragm, contracting the abdominals, stimulating the heart and lungs, improving circulation and blood flow, increasing oxygen delivery throughout the body and massaging the internal organs.  Overall, when laughter is practiced on a regular basis, the quality of life is greatly improved.

What other techniques do you suggest for reducing stress?

Abdominal breathing is one of the easiest, quickest and most effective ways to alleviate stress. Start by sitting quietly in a chair, with your back supported, feet on the floor and hands resting gently on your thighs. With eyes closed, inhale deeply for a count of 10. Pause and then exhale slowly, pushing all the stale air out of your lungs. Repeat a few times. Then open your eyes. While this technique is quite simple to do, its impact is profound. This breathing activity should be practiced on a regular basis, so it becomes second nature.
Muscle relaxation techniques are also very effective. Try this simple exercise: Tense all the muscles in your body and hold for 10 seconds. Slowly release the tension and feel it begin to leave your body. Repeat three more times.

What are your other areas of interest in health and wellness?
I am interested in all aspects of health and wellness that focus on prevention. As an exercise physiologist, I have worked in the areas of cardiac rehab, corporate wellness and adult fitness. Therefore, when I became a parent, it was very important for me to raise my two children with healthy lifestyle habits. As a result of my professional and personal experiences, I became passionate about educating this generation of children on how to develop practices necessary to live sound, more productive lives.

Tell us some simple exercise tips.
Participate in activities that you enjoy doing.  If it seems like work, then you won’t be motivated to continue doing it. Try new exercises. Variety is the spice of life. Changing things around will keep you from getting bored and will also challenge more muscle groups in your body. Find a workout buddy. When you are accountable to someone else, you’re more likely to stay on track. Get a group of co-workers or friends together and meet on a regular basis to play softball, basketball, volleyball, badminton, etc. Sign up for a martial arts class or dance lessons.  And don’t forget, nothing can beat taking a nice long walk!

Tell us something about your hobbies and interests.
I love to exercise, dance and participate in athletic activities. I’m an avid cyclist, weather permitting! I’ve been practicing yoga for the past eight years. Recently I added Zumba, pilates and cardio dance to my fitness routine. I enjoy traveling. Experiencing new cultures, visiting memorable sights, meeting the residents of the area and sampling local cuisine are what make my vacations memorable, exciting and interesting.  In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, baking and entertaining.

Profile
Debbie Friend is a health and wellness educator, certified laughter yoga leader and published writer. To know more:-

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