Can you think of anything more ludicrous than
being in a room with a group of strangers,
making eye contact with each other, and forcing out a sequence of sustained, phony laughter?

Proponents will agree – it is definitely goofy. But the practice, known as laughter yoga, offers amazing benefits for both body and soul.


Laughter yoga is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. The practice can reduce stress, improve your immune system and much more. Best of all, laughter yoga classes can be adapted for groups of all ages and abilities.

Want to try it for yourself? You can take a class, free of charge, at one of the St. Luke’s clinics right here in the Twin Ports.


According to Rachel Rodlund, a Care Coordinator for St. Luke’s Denfeld Clinic, laughter yoga isn’t actually yoga. But it does include yogic breathing.

The group is taught by a laughter coach, who presents and leads the class in laughter exercises. There are hundreds of different laughter exercises, which make for a unique experience during each class.

Eye contact with fellow laughers and a kind of child-like playfulness add to the frivolity. Exercises vary from silent laughter to boisterous laughter, but participants are asked to “laugh responsibly,” so that they don’t over-exert themselves.

Each laughter exercise is followed by a group cheer, chant, clapping or a short group song; the words are posted so everyone can join in. The exercises may be done seated or while on your feet so people of all fitness levels and abilities can participate. Class ends with a few minutes of laughter meditation.


Rachel initiated and now helps coordinate St. Luke’s laughter yoga classes, which are held once per month. Classes are offered free to the public through a grant from the St. Luke’s Foundation.

The courses rotate to a new St. Luke’s clinic each month. August’s class was at the Mariner Medical Clinic in Superior, and the September classes are at P.S. Rudie Clinic, found in downtown Duluth. The classes are offered through St. Luke’s and are the only laughter yoga classes in the region.

Rachel enjoys taking the class herself, and shares, “Kids laugh 100 times a day, but adults only laugh nine or 10 times a day. The point of laughter yoga is to relax and reduce stress … like a child. Whenever I take a class, I sleep very well at night.”


In order to lead a laughter yoga course, you have to be certified. Is there any job onĀ earth that sounds more fun? Betsy Ortloff is an Occupational Health nurse at St. Luke’s. She is also a laughter coach.

“My first exposure to laughter classes was about 10 years ago when I lived in Minneapolis; a friend invited me to join her at a class,” she explains. “At first I thought it was weird. I had a chronic case of seriousness, and it was difficult to let my child-like self act silly. Once I saw how much fun the others were having, I let my inhibitions go and enjoyed a good belly laugh. I felt great afterwards.”

In 2012, she decided to become certified and make a business out of laughter. “My laughter business is called Laugh For The Health Of It,” she says. “Prior to starting at St. Luke’s, I did laughter yoga at care centers throughout the Twin Ports. I brought the gift of laughter to those who may not have otherwise laughed very often. St. Luke’s has contracted with three of us who are Certified Laughter Yoga Leaders to do monthly classes for the community. In addition, we are now going to be leading classes for St. Luke’s employees each month.”



When class begins, most of the laughing is fake; however, it eventually transforms into deep, authentic belly laughs. All of this chortling does amazing things for your stress levels, attitude, and even your blood pressure. Laughter is indeed the best medicine.

Here is a list of five benefits of laughter yoga, taken from

Improved Mood: Laughter yoga helps to change your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins from your brain.

Healthy Form of Exercise: Laughter yoga is like a cardio workout, bringing your oxygen to the body and brain. This helps make you feel more energetic and relaxed.

Immune System Benefits + Stress Reduction: Laughter yoga reduces stress and strengthens the immune system.

Quality of Life: Laughter is a form of very positive energy, helping people to not only feel good, but quickly connect with others.

Positive Attitude in Challenging Times: Laughter helps to create a positive mental state, which can help you deal with negative situations and negative people. It gives hope and optimism to help cope with difficult times.

Are you going through a tough time, or just looking for a fun way to improve your health? Consider laughter yoga class, where you can yuk it up with a crowd. Class participants don’t need to bring anything other than an open mind. Water and a light snack are provided.

For more information, or to sign up for a laughter yoga class, please visit the St. Luke’s Facebook page, or contact Rachel Rodlund at (218) 249-6800.

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