Sharon Stewart is a resilient and positive person who has not let life-changing events, such as a brain tumour, stop her from spreading laughter and happiness to others.  

She is a laughter yoga facilitator who uses the power of positivity and breathing to help people deal with challenges and traumas, such as mental health issues and addiction.

"I've worked with domestic violence survivors, people dealing with stress and anxiety, breathing problems ... and recently, a man going through alcohol withdrawals," she said.

"He said to me, 'Thank you for getting me out of my head and changing my negative mindset'.

"He comes every week now and laughs, he's just like Santa Claus."

While Ms Stewart was not trained in laughter yoga when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour 30 years ago, she said it was the connection of her community that helped her to recover.

Two women standing and laughing with their arms folded by their chest

Laughter yoga is helping people to connect and overcome challenges. (ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

"I had a lot of support and was very into horse riding, so two weeks after my surgery I got on my horse," she said.

"Even though I was very unbalanced, I had someone lead me around.

"If I had the laughter back then, it probably would have made a big difference because it was a tough one, but I got through it."

A grey haired woman looking to the side and smiling. Blue sky and green shrubs behind her.

Ms Stewart has overcome a brain tumour and now works to spread the laughter to everyone she meets. (ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

Laughter overcoming loneliness

Laughter yoga is a modern exercise movement that started with a joke and five friends in India in 1995.

It evolved into a way of combining yoga exercises and breath work with laughter, and was contagious, with the movement spreading to more than 50 countries across the globe.

"The idea behind the laughter is it's not going to help your problems go away, but it certainly changes the way you deal with things," Ms Stewart said.

"It helps to bridge the loneliness gap."

Loneliness is a common issue many people deal with, and Ms Stewart's sessions are connecting people in South Australia's Riverland region.

A group of five women standing side by side, smiling with their arms out

Ms Stewart says laughter yoga can feel strange at first but it helps people in many different ways. (ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

First-time laughter yoga participant Mary Wagnitz said she found the practise mind-opening and a new way of bringing the community together.

"I think you do need to keep connecting, otherwise you can become quite sour being home on your own," she said.

"Sometimes it's nice to have that bit of privacy and do your own thing and feel like people are out of your face, but you can't do that forever.

"You've still got to get out and socialise, be yourself and be young again ... and have a good laugh."


Source link