How Laughter Yoga Changed my Life
I was not always a funny, enertaining person. As a kid, I was rather a shy and solitary boy who preferred to read books or play computer games instead of having fun with other kids. I believed that nobody can like such a fat boy as me. However, a change of school environment helped me to develop love and kindness for myself and others. As a teenager, I switched to vegetarian diet and started an active lifestyle, cycled a lot and got interested in issues of psychology and spirituality. In 2 years I dropped 35 kilos without any pills or treatment! I believed that the love and acceptance of myself played crucial role along with vegetarian diet. For some 13 years now I have kept my weight without thinking much about it and am considered a slim person. In high school I joined local environmentalists group in their campaign for cycling paths and sustainable transport in Lodz, my home city. I also started to practice Hatha Yoga which helped my spine be straight and my spirit to be more serene.
As a student, I was very serious person believing that the world must be changed. Together with my sister and a small group of friends, I was organizing protest against the participation of Polish military in the war on Iraq or actions like“ buy nothing day” or “ TV turn of week”. I believed that over-consumption must be challenged and more spiritual attitude towards life introduced. I was very serious about it, although organized protests in form of funny theater-inspired happenings.
Then I established with my sister and friends a cultural center in the poor and notorious for illegal alcohol trade street in the city center. We were doing community work and organised a happy street festival with lots of circus, dance, fire show and urban art interventions. We started to run daily free time activities for local kids and got quite famous in our city. However, this external success did not make me happy. I experienced an annoying feeling of sacrificing myself for some bigger goals. I started daily practice of mediation, which helped me to keep the mind calm and accept my life as it had been, however, I was doing too many compromises which contributed to calming down my passions.
In a difficult moment of my life when I split up with my partner and my father was diagnosed with cancer and I fell into depression, I decided to move to Warsaw. It was like starting a new life. I had more time to concentrate on my own big questions and looking for my passions. I came back to writing, a long time abandoned passion, and found it so easy and joyful, I established a blog with my stories and started writing poetry. I attended dozens of personal development and body-mind connections workshops to better understand myself and broaden my passion for life. I felt that finally I had a life which I am happy about. However, I had to go through a big challenge which was confronting the cancer of my father, who after several brain operations could not move out of his bed. This illness eventually led to his death which just happened shortly before my 30th birthday. However, I felt much stronger spiritually after this and value very much the love I have shared with my father before he passed away.
I discovered Laughter Yoga around 2007, when I invited a friend of my friends Jacek Gola?ski to give a small presentation of Laughter Yoga in our cultural center in Lodz. He was just leading then some basic Laughter Yoga exercises without presenting the philosophy. I remember a crazy laughter snowballs’ battle. I found it hilarious, fun, but not profound and I was looking for “something deep” that is with some spiritual underpinning.
Although when I was earlier studying in Spain, I finished some weekend clown school and from time to time I was using some of Laughter Yoga exercises as part of my own “ clown” workshops which I was running occasionally. However, I have dropped the clown business after some 2 years, when I experienced fully the hardship of this job: I was striving so hard to make laugh a group of “ tired with live” children from a rich neighborhood which had had dozens of games, pizzas and cakes before my performance. I decided to have a “ more normal” job as a Spanish teacher, although I still found some joy in it and ocasions to laugh. Then this “my life is falling apart” crisis came and I lost my joy of life for some time. But once I woke up from a dream about Laughter Yoga, just googled it and I watched a video of Dr. Kataria laughing alone at 5 am. I started to do some further readings and found out that Laughter Yoga has “something deep” to offer to me, the idea of laughing unconditionally seemed to me deeply spiritual and by the same time rational. However, I grasped it more intellectually than actually feel it. I also lacked companionship to laugh and believed that a lot of work must be done before I could open a laughter club.
But a lot has changed when I got to know my fiancee Aneta and very quickly we knew that we want to be together and share our love with the world. Things that I believed were impossible, became possible anew, again, the world has opened for me as never before. Then I decided ton go to India and do the LY teacher training which in just 5 days enable me to run a Laughter Club. So I wrote to Dr. Kataria and he was kind to agree to accept me as his student.
I experienced a wonderful time in Bangalore with a diverse group from all continents, Middle East, South-East Asia, Latin America, South Africa… We were laughing from early mornings till late evenings and I experienced deep peace and joy, deep joy and peace. I came to Poland as a different person. I know that I want to laugh unconditionally every day to spread peace and protect my inner laughter from the external pressure of grumbling and negativity. I first started to invite my friends to laugh with me and Aneta and feeling that it really works, I started shortly after to offer free laughter sessions in public spaces and workshops in yoga or personal development centers I began to collaborate with all the other passionate about LY or laughter therapies passionate from Poland I have found, including Jacek who introduced to me the concept of Laughter Yoga for the first time.
I organized the celebration of World Laughter Day in three major cities of Poland, Warsaw, Cracow and Lodz what attracted the attention of the media so I appeared in the national TV, main radio channels and newspapers. The biggest test for me was to run Laughter Yoga with prisoners but we were laughing so loud that the prison bricks were starting to shake. Just few months after coming back from India I have a record of over 150 laughter sessions, some of which were done for charity organizations, one at a beautiful spa center in mountains, another for an event company and another in a psychiatric hospital for people suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. I keep laughing regularly via skype with my friend Jason from Moscow, whom I met at the Laughter Yoga teachers training. And most importantly, my friends and relatives heartily laugh when they see me.
I had a magical public LY session with my partner, my mum and two grandmothers. I apprecaite so much that my grandmother Irka who recently passed away has had occasion to laugh together with me. Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha!
Warsaw Laughter Club
I established The Warsaw Laughter Club on 5th May 2013, when we celebrated World Laughter Day in Warsaw. We gather in the biggest park in the centre of the city called Pola Mokotowskie . The meetings usually take 45 minutes, out of which I keep 5 minutes for brief introduction to Laughter Yoga, 30 minutes for a laughter session and 10 minutes for sharing how we feel after the session, questions and comments.
I want to keep the weekly routine of meetings and depending on my work schedule we meet on Thursdays at 5.15 pm or on Sundays at 7 pm. At times, I organise some extra events for the Laughter Club, like inviting musicians to play etc. Initially, we had 60 people out of at least 10 – 20 come regularly. The participation in this Laughter Club is free, but at the end of session I just collect voluntary donations which kelp me in promoting Laughter Yoga (printing leaflets, posters, etc.).