With the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” playing through the speakers, a small group moved and grooved freely, at ease and in time with the music.
“Hip, hip, hip,” an instructor called out. The 15 or so dancers followed the directives, twisting their hips and waving their arms in the air.
“This is so free-spirited, it’s like you’re on the wind,” said Toni Vandyke, 67, after the routine. “It’s magic.”
The dance exercise was part of the second annual Holistic Health Expo at Delaware Park’s Marcy Casino.
The event featured speakers, holistic medicine practitioners and a number of relaxation practices.
About 40 vendors set up shop, offering a wide range of products and experiences, from full-body massages to hypnosis.
“We’re here to help the person live a healthy, fulfilling life,” said Jill O’Hara, a holistic medicine practitioner and the event organizer.
Holistic health emphasizes the well-being of the mind, body and spirit, she said. About 600 people are members of the Western New York Holistic Alliance.
“We’re not trying to take over traditional medicine, we’re trying to complement it,” O’Hara added.
Sunday, O’Hara performed a decades-old practice called reiki, a form of energy healing that relies on hand positioning to soothe a person’s trouble areas and places them in a deep state of relaxation.
Also on display were more hands-on approaches to relaxation. Laughter yoga, which utilizes yoga breathing techniques to accompany laughter exercises, caught the attention of holistic first-timers. Sister Judith Beiswanger, 55, sported a happy-face sticker – a badge of sorts, indicating she participated in the laughter yoga demonstration.
“You’re never too old to learn these things,” said Beiswanger, who also does tai chi and cardio step-dancing.
In laughter yoga, yogis simulate everyday practices, such as cocktail mixing, snow shoveling or basketball shooting with hand gestures and punctuate each with hearty laughter.
Some exercises include a congraulatory, “Very good, very good,” declared by the yogis in unison. Another exercise, called “gibberish talk,” has yogis launch into nonsensical jabber that’s also accompanied with a trill of laughter.
“It’s about getting people together again – out of their isolation, face to face in groups,” said Caren Kolerski, a laughter yoga teacher.
Fellow teacher Dawn Werner added that the laughter helps reawaken a sense of childlike joy.
“You go and you feel energized, truly, about the experience,” Werner said.