St. Mary’s Woods

What do you expect to see when you walk in the front door of a retirement community? Lovely surroundings, silver-haired people in comfortable chairs engaged in conversation or reading?  Maybe there is some soft music from the Big Band era playing in the background. This is true very often, but not at St. Mary’s Woods on Tuesday afternoons. Even before you open the front door, you will hear a loud sound that makes you smile. Those comfortable chairs are occupied by us, average age 84,  laughing long and loud like we did when we were kids many decades ago.  As Estelle leads us through the laughter games and exercises, we let go of the aches and pains and sadness that can accompany aging.  We are playful again because of Estelle’s encouragement.  Our breathing deepens and the knees don’t seem to ache as much.  Some of us make up silly names for the laughter yoga introductions; we’ve even invented some laughter games on our own (chicken wings!). Some of us (no names mentioned, Bud) have a reputation for being grouchy, but not on Tuesday afternoons.  We love to watch the surprised looks on the faces of visitors when they see and hear us carrying on.  Staff members will even stop and laugh with us.  No one who passes us during Laughter Yoga is able to keep from laughing themselves.  Take it from us: you are NEVER too old to play.

Barbara, Betty, Carol, Margaret, Mickey, Nan and Bud

ALS Support Group Spring 2015

“I had previously participated in a laughter session with Estelle and I invited her to conduct a laughter session at a monthly ALS Support Group. I wanted to bring something new to the patients that would improve both their emotional well-being and physical health. What fun we had and not only did the patients enjoy this laughter session, the staff from the VCU Medical Center ALS clinic did as well! It was great for the patients, their caregivers, and staff to be playful and full of joy. Thank you for providing ALS patients and their families with a truly wonderful gift as they continue to fight this disease.–Hattie Figgers, MSW VCU Medical Center

College students’ Before and After laughter session comments


University students’ Before and After laughter session comments

“Feeling pretty good right now” to… “Noticing my breathing and mental relaxation”

“Slight headache” to… “Feel relaxed and like I had a light cardio workout. Head feels better”

“Lack of muscle relaxation is in part due to shoulder tension. Stress and discomfort in group settings.” To…drawing of a sun and heart

“I am excited for this activity but very sore and tired” to… “My mind feels relaxed and clearer. I feel more ready for the day”

“Slept well, feel pretty good. Always stressed about school these days” to… “As much relaxed as energized. Balanced”

“I am tired, but ready for my day to start!” to… “I feel very relaxed and focused. My muscles feel relaxed”

“Went on a run this morning and did not sleep well last night. Pretty tired overall.” to… “Very much enjoyed! Laughing helped me to relax and wake up!”

Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center Laughter Yoga for Social Workers

“The laughing yoga was such a great activity for social work month! I started as a skeptic and left a believer in the therapeutic benefits of laughing yoga. It was a fun and interesting way to interact with co-workers and by the end of the session I felt relaxed, centered, and couldn’t help but laugh. I had such a great experience and will be partaking in laughing yoga again!”

“I thoroughly enjoyed Estelle Brodeur and her team’s approach in presenting laughter yoga to our social work staff at McGuire Medical Center for 2014 Social Work Month. Not only did I enjoy every minute of the session, I was able to forget about all the stress from the work day and truly be in the moment. I left refreshed and thinking positively. I strongly recommend that everyone try laughing yoga at some point in their lives”.

note from Estelle–our team was wonderful Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Heather Umberger and her fabulous mom and laughter blaster, Bonnie

Public Librarian on Teen Laughter Session

“The Laughter Yoga program at the library was a delight. Instructors Estelle Brodeur and Andrew Davis were inviting and responsive, making sure each person felt welcome to laugh in their own way. By the end of the session, it felt as though we had run several miles, but we were calm as though we had just spent the afternoon on the beach. It was great to be playful and joyful as a group. And it’s easy to see the benefits of Laughter Yoga once you have experienced it yourself.”—public librarian comments on Teen Laughter Yoga session

Comments from Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Training and Retreat, August 2013

Comments from Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Training and Retreat, August 2013

“As an art teacher, I’ve felt more positive in dealing with my students. I feel that I can empathize, or see through my students’ eyes in teaching art and working on art activities with my students. I now take time to laugh with my students that takes away some of the fear that can be experienced when being creative in the arts and life”. —Andrew Davis

“This weekend has deepened my sense of self and expanded my personal practice of laughter and love for self and others. I highly recommend CLYL training to anyone who is curious about LY and how to incorporate a laughter practice that complements a healthy lifestyle. I’ve many great memories and met such good people with whom I can play!”—Sarah Broughton

“With this training, I am hoping to open laughter club in my community and also in workplace. I was able to learn more about the laughing yoga exercises, the benefits it has provided to others. I like and respect everyone participated in this training. In my workplace I approach my co-workers with a smile and if possible laugh with them. It reduces the stress for me and the other party as well.” —Sindhu J Manuvalil

“Skills learned from CLYL training; history behind Dr. Kataria’s research for Laughter Yoga, how to lead LY depending on the situation such as corporate vs seniors, etc, and creativity in new LY games. Hope to bring more peace and happiness to others as well as sharing the health benefits of LY”.—Valerie Pace

Mary Shall, PT, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Therapy, Virginia Commonwealth University

“Your presentation and practice of laughter yoga was a wonderful demonstration of a method of how we can integrate fun into exercise.  Clearly we were breathing more deeply and focused on the here and now.  I think that sometimes we are so caught up in the serious, professional world that we forget to really laugh and enjoy that activity.  Thank you for sharing your joy!”—Mary Shall, PT, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Therapy, Virginia Commonwealth University, after Laughter Yoga session with 3rd year Physical Therapy Students

Elmcroft of Chesterfield Assisted Living

“Thank you for being so open to Laughing with our residents!  They loved the unique approach to ‘relaxing’.  Several are still chanting very good, very good, yay!  One of our ladies commented ‘that was great, took me out of myself and I feel energized and without sweating’!”—LuAnn Paul, Executive Director, Elmcroft of Chesterfield Assisted Living


Pem Hall, Cancer Survivorship Conference Planning Committee

“The day was long. The topic was cancer. The 160 conference participants were patients and their caregivers. Late in the afternoon, Estelle and Jim took the stage and transformed the room into hilarity. We laughed until we cried! For just a little while, we were able to forget why we were there. But the longer lasting benefit was that we now had a new strategy for coping with the journey of cancer.”


Ally Ley, Davis Phinney Foundation

“I had the pleasure of working with Estelle and Jim Brodeur to present a short segment on laughter yoga at The Victory Summit in Richmond in May 2012, a one-day educational event for people with Parkinson’s disease and their families. Our Foundation produces these events around the country and while I’ve had the privilege of working with several different presenters, Estelle has been one of my favorites. Not only is she prompt with deadlines and thorough with details, she is a dynamic presenter able to truly connect with a diverse audience. As some of the first presenters in our program, she and Jim were able to engage with the crowd of over 500 individuals of all ages and stages of the disease, not an easy feat. They had everyone not just laughing, but really participating along with them in each exercise. Their upbeat attitude and balanced combination of exercises and background information about laughter yoga was a perfect way to begin our day of education and inspiration.”