Friday, August 27, 2010
Laughter Yoga in an Albuquerque Jail
Over this long weekend, we are ensconced in Albuquerque for the 5th Annual All America Laughter Yoga Conference. Prior to my arrival to the conference yesterday, Mary spent three days training to become a Certified Laughter Coach as a compliment to her new certification as a Life Coach, so stay tuned for more details about our new business venture as coaches!
Yesterday afternoon, our teacher Dr. Madan Kataria of Bombay, India and Jane Davis of Hope Howse brought twelve of us to the Bernalillo Metropolitan Detention Center for a Laughter Yoga session with 90 inmates. This is the largest county jail in New Mexico, and thanks to the work of Jane Davis and Hope Howse, we were allowed entry to the jail and access to one of the pods where 90 inmates are participating in programming geared towards improving their life skills.
Although many of us, including myself, experienced some level of trepidation and anxiety when entering the facility and the pod itself, the ice was quickly broken after Dr. Kataria gave his introduction to Laughter Yoga and the science of laughter and we began the participatory portion of the program. While some of the men hung on the side and only marginally participated, the majority wholeheartedly took part, laughing uproariously, smiling and enjoying more than an hour of the cohesiveness and joy that group laughter can engender.
While we were aware that these men could have been incarcerated for anything from a DWI to aggravated assault or various violent crimes, it also became quickly apparent that they are, of course, as human as the rest of us, and being given this opportunity for a wholesome hour of laughter was a boon to their spirits and their mental, physical and spiritual health. The level of enthusiasm was contagious, and we all shared some very genuine laughter followed by a brief period of handshaking and socializing before our group of 12 had to take our leave.
Mary and I have offered Laughter Yoga sessions in universities, health facilities, senior centers, private parties and other venues, but this may have been the most satisfying session we've ever participated in. Many of the men were obviously very grateful for our visit, and the plethora of hearty handshakes and thank you's were heartfelt and extremely sincere.
Driving back to the hotel and the official beginning of the conference, we were all high from the experience, and many of us are now considering bringing Laughter Yoga to our local jails and prisons, both for the inmates and the officers. Stress is a common state in the jail environment, and bring some relief to those who most need the stress relief was truly a joy and an honor. Any of us can make a mistake or a wrong choice in life, and when seeing those who are incarcerated through the lens of "there but for the grace of God go I", one realizes the essential humanity of these men and the extent to which they, too, deserve the gift of laughter, joy, and unconditional positive regard.