Laughter Yoga Transformed My Life

Sukumar Satapathy

I was certified as a Laughter Yoga Leader in 2008 and as a Teacher in 2009. It really hasn’t been that long and yet, because Laughter Yoga feels so right, time has been rendered meaningless. It has become an integral part of who I am, not just something I do. It is working transformative magic in my life.

I moved to Vermont five years ago when my husband, Stan and I were planning to marry. In moving to where Stan already lived, I left behind friends, work I loved (as the director of an organization that supports frail elders and their families), and the pleasure and solace that living by the ocean offered me – the place I had chosen to live following the death of my partner ten years before. All at once I had moved, changed jobs, renovated a house, planned a wedding and married into a wonderful and complex family.

Initially, I took it all up with driving determination, without giving myself time to even breathe or to acknowledge the vast changes I had made. I didn’t consider that even if changes are freely chosen and positively weighted, they still need space and time to be honored. The job I accepted was just work to me, just a way to make money to pay our bills. It wasn’t enlivening and I couldn’t see the impact of my endeavors. I wanted to quit but couldn’t figure out an exit strategy. Two years later I started experiencing panic attacks and had to leave my job. The exit strategy had found me. I felt lost and overwhelmed. Clearly, I needed to take time to rest while I realigned my heart and sense of self. During this time I considered several career options. None resonated.

Here is where Laughter Yoga entered my life. I received an email announcing a laughter leader training in Burlington offered by Laughter Yoga teachers Jen Matthews and Kate Asch. It piqued my interest but I wasn’t sure. The idea stayed with me though and so when a few days later my step-daughter told me about the same training, I knew it was something I wanted to explore.
Well, I loved it. Jen and Kate are inspirational teachers and Dr. Kataria’s work, philosophy and vision felt akin to my own beliefs and passions. I began with what I knew and loved; I worked towards bringing Laughter Yoga to elders. Besides, teaching others about all the possibilities that Laughter Yoga offers for health, fun, exercise and joy awakened my passion. It has given me something very valuable to share with my new community in Vermont. I feel inspired and hopeful when I see people responding with open-hearted appreciation and the realization that Laughter Yoga can change so much in their lives. I love watching as people let go and play together more freely during laughter sessions.

I run a social laughter club and we have different themes every week with much creativity and willingness to play. I have conducted training sessions for AmeriCorps Volunteers (USA’s domestic Peace Corps) who work with elders in Vermont and also facilitated a laughter session in Hong Kong for eighty professionals also working with elders. I also led a laughter session at an international social work conference in October 2009 and facilitated a laughter session for Stan’s graduate social work class. In April this year, I will present Laughter Yoga to physicians at a Burlington Geriatrics conference and in May at a workshop for family caregivers.

Lately opportunities have been presenting themselves to me – some on a fee-for-service basis, some requests for free presentations. I am trying to accommodate a balance between both without taking on too much at one time. I think I must be opening myself to doing more and the universe is responding. It reinforces my trust that I am just where I need to be.

Fran Joseph CLYT, Burlington Vermont, USA