students laugh during laughter yoga
Students in the GS200W Intro to Gender Studies class enjoy laughter yoga after completing a particularly difficult study of gender-based violence. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Students wrap up difficult course with laughter yoga

Oct 30, 2019
Kristen Bowman
Zafyre Sexton laughs while laying on the ground doing yoga
Junior acting major Zafyre Sexton cracks up during laughter yoga.

Professor of Political Science Heather Hollimon knew she was putting her GS200W Intro to Gender Studies class through an emotional ringer with her section on gender-based violence.

To help them decompress after the difficult section, Hollimon brought in certified laughter yoga teacher Shama Rainwater.

Rainwater took the students through several breathing and laughing exercises. These included mirrored laughing, in which students would pair up and copy each other’s laughs, and imitation laughing, in which students would suggest “famous” laughs and the entire class would imitate these well-known guffaws.

Rainwater wrapped up the exercises with a laughter chain, in which the students laid against their classmates and started to laugh. In every exercise, the practice of laughing became infectious, leading to sincere explosions of laughter.

GS200W is one of the new W courses offered in The Women’s College of Brenau University. These courses emphasize the experience and expertise of women throughout course design and delivery. More than half the course activities, readings and assessments explore female experience and perspective.

The readings for this course included poems, essays and stories from true victims of gender-based violence such as Sex Trafficking in the U.S. by Rachel Chinapen, Betrayed by the Angel by Debra Anne Davis, Beyond the Politics of Inclusion: Violence Against Women of Color and Human Rights by Andrea Smith, She Said by Mariah Lockwood, and Lisa’s Ritual, Age 10 by Grace Caroline Bridges.

Rainwater said she wanted the students to know that, despite these horrors, they can have hope for victims of gender-based violence.

“I was a victim of abuse of all kinds,” she said. “By the time I was 13, I experienced every kind of abuse that there is in a book. I have — through therapy, love, laughter and relationships — been given treatment and hope. And I feel like a victor.”