In Praise of the Giggles


In Praise of the Giggles

Have you ever had a giggle fit?

I used to get them all the time when I was a kid—something would set me off and I would just lose it for minutes—the people around me would have stopped laughing at the joke, and watch me to see how long this could last. I could not contain it, and the moment I tried to, it would all burst out of me all over again.

Well, I am far from being a little kid, but it still happens to me sometimes. I’ve noticed it goes like this: I’ll have been having kind of a hard time, my old affair with depression having come back, old flame, and I won’t have laughed for months. Then, one day, without any warning, something will happen, some joke, some silly situation, and all the laughter comes bubbling up out of me like it’s been hiding in there, sticking itself in between the folds of my intestines and the empty spots in the deepest places of my lungs, just waiting for the moment to get free.

I hate suppressing laughter. Especially if it’s been a while.

This has been happening to me lately in my yoga practice. We sit down, we are So Serious. We are trying to breathe deeply. We are in a hip opener which is supposed to make you feel sad or angry, not boiling over in fits of laughter.

And I find it interesting that yoga students are encouraged to sigh, and groan, and sometimes even cry—many yoga teachers are totally sensitive to the fact that when you practice yoga, stuff starts to come out—energy wants to move, and they are standing by with that Kleenex box to discreetly place it beside your mat when you need it.

But laughter? I was told last week to “focus on your breath!” like I was being a delinquent in elementary school for laughter. Funny, I thought yoga was all about freedom! I wasn’t laughing at you, you know.

What was I laughing at? I have no idea. I think it’s just the joy that gets stuck inside me when I think too much, care too much, look at the terrible state of the world and cry too much.

Taking yoga too seriously is, I believe, a grave mistake. Many of us have turned away from a more ‘organized’ spirituality because of the guilt that seeps into every conversation you try to have with God. I think some spiritual folks are attracted to yoga because it allows an intimate relationship with the divine that actually feels good, that accepts you for who you are, and that may include such taboo stuff as hugging, sexual pleasure, and yes (gasp) laughter.

Yogis are, indeed, very sensitive people. But let’s remember that that means we feel not only the most intense lows, but the most intense highs also. We are given the gift of empathy so we can feel what our students and friends and colleagues are feeling so we can help make the world better. Joy is a part of that, too. And if I want to giggle my face off on or off my mat, I’m gonna do it.

And yeah, it’s contagious.

Here’s Hafiz with the last word, again:


and I have become
like two giant fat people living
in a tiny
keep bumping into
each other


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