UPPER WEST SIDE — Don't be alarmed if you see dozens of seniors standing around laughing and laughing this Sunday in Central Park — instead, they urge, you should join them.
Around two dozen seniors ranging from 55-years-old to well into their 80s are taking their weekly laughter yoga class into the park this weekend to create what they're dubbing a "laughter riot," or flash mob, with the hopes that passersby will join them in their hilarity.
The class is aimed at harnessing the healing and stress-relieving power of laughter through a series of group exercises and interactions, according to participants.
You start doing breathing exercises and you do eye contact as you're doing the exercise and you just spontaneously start to smile and laugh and it becomes contagious," said Arlene Linder, 67, of the class, held at John Jay College every Sunday as part of the Jewish Association Serving the Aging's portfolio of classes.
The classes uses traditional yoga breathing and stretching, but not the challenging poses associated with yoga.
"You can do as much or as little as you like — a lot of what they do can be done from a seated position," said Sara Tornay, the program director for "Sundays at JASA."
It's the eye contact that gets you, said Linder. The exercises often involve chanting "ho ho ho" and doing "ridiculous things" and then you catch someone's eye and it's all over, you can't stop laughing, she said.
"It feels good and you’re releasing and letting go," she said.
Plus, "you look younger, you feel younger [in the process,]" she said.
On a whim, the class collectively decided to take its Sunday meeting, at 11:30 a.m., out to Central Park.
"Their hope is to show people that this is a wonderful viable exercise for people of any age," said Tornay.
Linder said she's inviting her friends to join in and she hopes others will stop and follow suit.
The benefits extend beyond the class, she said. She knows it's helping her stay healthy, and it's improved her outlook.
"You feel more comfortable laughing and smiling," said Linder.
Sunday classes through JASA at John Jay College are for anyone over 55-years-old and cost $150 for a membership pass that grants unlimited access to 30 different classes. Seniors are welcome to join the current session and a new session begins in mid-February.