Screenshot from Nov. 19 YOG-HA! class. Pasha Marlowe sporting oversized sunglasses in top left. Courtesy / Pasha Marlowe

NORTH YARMOUTH — In a time of uncertainty, isolation, and political and social turmoil, it can be hard to find moments for sharing a laugh.

That hasn’t stopped Pasha Marlowe of North Yarmouth. Marlowe, a nationally certified health and wellness coach, introduced her coaching programs ROAR with LAUGHTER and YOG-HA! in 2019, not knowing how uniquely valuable her work would be in the upcoming year. 

Marlowe’s first recognized the power of healing through humor when her youngest son was diagnosed with a chronic illness and the two spent the majority of 2019 in hospitals. To work through the physical and emotional pain, Marlowe encouraged her son to play practical jokes on her at night, such as taping the faucet or putting soap on her toothbrush. They worked humor into their days as much as possible, even if it was just laughing about how awful it was to spend so much time in hospitals, Marlowe said. 

“When I started introducing it to adults, I wasn’t sure how it would go over because as we get older it’s much harder to access play and laughter,” said Marlowe, who blended her background in psychotherapy, holistic wellness, theatre and comedy. “But I found it was something people were craving and hadn’t thought to try. It felt foreign at first, and then really releasing.” 

ROAR with LAUGHTER is an eight-week program that teaches participants to see and speak their toughest stories through the lens of humor. The virtual classes include six to eight people that meet once a week, ending with a performance where each student tells their story in the style of stand-up comedy. Marlowe has led five virtual sessions, and her sixth will be starting in January. 

Marlow’s laughter/yoga classes, YOG-HA!, are held every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. Laughing while holding a tough yoga pose might not sound appealing at first, but Marlowe encourages her clients to “fake it ‘til they make it,” and by the end of most classes, no one can contain their giggles, she said.  

Forcing oneself to smile and laugh has been proven to have many short- and long-term benefits, including stimulating internal organs, relieving the stress response and boosting one’s immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Due to the virtual format of the programming, people from across the United States and beyond have logged on to laugh together in the safe spaces that Marlowe cultivates.

“One benefit of 2020 is that it’s so virtual, so people from around the world can just as easily participate as someone here in Maine,” Marlowe said. “The universal language of laughter is comforting to me, and I also think we’re all collectively grieving the loss of the way things were, so we’re unified in that.”

COVID-19 itself teaches us that life is short,” Lisa Parsons of Cumberland, who attends ROAR sessions, said. “ROAR is a way to take ourselves a little less seriously, but also delve into some deep stuff.”

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