Monday, August 3, 2015

Music Therapy and Laughter Yoga

Let me start by defining Laughter Yoga:
"The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits." There is more information about laughter yoga at:

I saw this for the first time last week when I went to do clinical work at the adult daycare at Sirindhorn Hospital (

At first I was pretty apprehensive... I didn't feel comfortable forcing myself to laugh in other peoples faces- especially strangers. But after about 3 minutes the room changed. The therapist, Susan, had created a safe environment where most of the therapists suddenly felt comfortable. This, of course, is the type of environment she has been working on creating with her clients for several years. In other words, she has built great rapport with them. This is important when working with people in any setting. In therapy, it is equally as important because we want the clients to trust the process we are giving them in order to achieve the best results. There was no such thing as a language barrier- laughing is the same in every country! She also stated that when someone is laughing it is impossible for him or her to think about anything else- no pain, no sorrow, no worries. I could tell that the clients were warming up to the fact that 12 farang (foreigners) were getting into their personal space based on the change in their facial expressions. If the roles were reversed I don't know if I would have been able to overcome all of the new experiences being forced upon me so fast.

The session with her lasted about 20 minutes. Throughout this time she laughed with others, practiced other emotional expressions, and found other verbal and non-verbal ways for the clients to express themselves that was not dependent on traditional language. She even used instruments during her session!
                                                                                                              Laughter yoga works on things that can be goals in music therapy as well, for example, breath support, pain relief, and eye contact. Susan did a beautiful job making all of the student music therapists feel included and helped us warm up to the group as a whole. By the time we started music therapy (immediately following laughter yoga) the room was open to whatever we brought to the table! This helped me personally. Since I have yet to lead a session in the U.S. I was nervous about leading one in Thailand, but the client's level of support helped me feel more relaxed.

This week we incorporated the two therapies as one big unit instead of two separate entities. This worked out extremely well, especially since Susan has such excellent rapport built up with the clients already. The clients were engaged, the therapists were having a good time, and, most importantly, progress was made. By the end of the session several of the therapists and clients were crying because the session was so moving. When you get down to the basics, everyone is human and we all feel emotions in similar ways.

 This concept hit me a lot harder than I expected it to. When I thought about coming to do music therapy in Thailand I was worried about how I would be able to make a connection with the clients due to the language barrier as well as the cultural differences. I was nervous to interact with clients because I didn't think I would be able to connect with them on more than a surface level. This session opened my eyes. At the end of the session I was hugging clients, we were crying together, and one even told me "I love you". How crazy is it that I was able to connect with a complete stranger that much in one hour?!

Being able to express those emotions in a safe environment today was the highlight of my clinical experience this trip. Going back to the U.S., I think there are many aspects of the laughter yoga that I'm going to try to bring to my sessions. I'm hoping that in the future, when the University of Kansas students are back home, that this cooperation will continue. I hope the sessions will be continuous with a smooth connection between the two therapies to increase the clients effect on the client.

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