So what’s it really like to be a laughter yogi? Why do people need laughter therapy?
Laughter is a sort of safety valve. If you have a good bout of laughter, you put your worries and your problems and your depression on the back burner; you’ve forgotten all about it and walked into a state of sunshine.
What is a typical session like?
It’s so tempting to give a speech, but that’s a bit boring. So my style is to jump right into the laughter. Some people are pretty puzzled, but they see everybody laughing, guffawing, and within a couple of minutes we have achieved that state of laughter. The laughter part of the session is typically about a half hour, with eye contact and interaction, and then we have about five minutes of laughter meditation, where people close their eyes and let the laughter flow from within. And after that we have an optional session of 45 minutes where people talk about their experience.
How do you get people to laugh if they don’t feel like it?
We don’t do jokes, we don’t do comedy, we don’t do tickling, and of course we don’t do alcohol. So we don’t insist that you laugh with your mind and brain and with your emotions immediately because that’s pretty impossible. Instead, you laugh with your body, but very soon the motion of laughter creates the emotion of laughter, and the emotion is flowing. And I have not had a single person come in who did not laugh.
What does it take to be a laughter leader?
Above all, your eyes are a dead giveaway. If you are not laughing from within, as the spark that brings laughter to everybody, then you’re not a good laughter leader. You can’t really fake it. You have to be genuinely involved and enjoying the laughter.
What are some of the benefits of laughter therapy?
I do believe that disease has its origins in toxic emotions. Laughter lowers blood pressure—expands the blood vessels and fills them with oxygen. And there are lots of hormones released by laughter: for example, endorphins, which are natural pain-killers, which help people cope with pain from arthritis, migraine, muscular pain. But my own experience with laughter therapy has less to do with the physical benefits and more to do with the mental and emotional benefits. It improves the attitude, the mood, and the self-esteem. It drives those negative feelings away and helps people with their confidence.
I think laughter is the easiest and one of the most cost-effective methods to heal ourselves from within. I feel we are far too much reliant on medication to heal us. We’d rather pop a pill than just laugh ourselves out of it. And if we are internally depressed, unhappy, angry, I think our immune system breaks down that much faster. We have shortness of breath, and we just invite disease. So if we are full of life in our heart, laughing all the time, we literally chase those toxins of negativity away, and we are happier and healthier.
I do believe that laughter really is the best medicine.