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“We’re going to start by throwing a bag of cold ice on each other’s heads,” Lainie Diamond announces, before running around the room acting out the scenario. Her students follow her lead, snickering and yelping at the imaginary frozen cubes pelting their bodies.

The class, held at the Heights Public Library, continues with still more exercises: riding a roller coaster, squatting like a sumo wrestler, flying through the sky like a bird, channeling Snow White’s evil queen, dancing to U2’s “Mysterious Ways,” and, most importantly, belting out chants of “ho ho ha ha ha” while clapping.

This is laughter yoga, a movement founded in 1995 by a physician in India that combines laughter with chanting, meditation and pranayama breathing (i.e., inhaling and exhaling through the nostrils). The idea is that laughing can improve physical and mental health through stress relief. It seems to work for Diamond’s regulars, some of whom have been attending her classes for years—one older yogi rides the bus in each week all the way from Humble.

Diamond, an actress and classical singer, started the Houston Laughter Yoga Club in January 2011 after moving to the Bayou City from New York and finding that the practice didn’t exist here. Her classes are open to everyone, as long as participants follow her two rules: laugh for no reason, and play like a child. You don’t even need a mat.

“We should not take our life too seriously,” says Diamond, sounding positively giddy about the classes’ success thus far. “People need to step outside of their comfort zone and remember to laugh at themselves.” 

Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon, Heights Public Library. Free.
Last Thursday of every month from 6 to 7 p.m., The Jung Center. $15. houstonlaughteryoga.com

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