joan leof Joan Leof


Because You’re Too Damn Serious

Cozy in my reading chair, with the sun streaming in on the essay collection I was reading for

my book group, I felt totally absorbed.  Not only was I enjoying the words I was reading, I was

grateful that I had created this book group which  brought together like-minded people who

enjoyed pondering matters of the spirit. Fellow seekers.

How happy it all made me!

Suddenly, I found myself crossing the room to my computer and Googling Laughter Yoga.

Nothing I was reading remotely prompted that, at least not consciously. Yet, there I was, not only

researching Laughter Yoga, but looking into how I could become a Laughter Yoga facilitator!

“Why did you put down the profound book you were enjoying,” I asked myself, “and Google

Laughter Yoga?” “Because you’re too damn serious,” a voice from deep within answered.”

It didn’t matter that things were going very well in my life. Or that people had told me since

adolescence that I had a terrific sense of humor. Or even that my husband and I laughed together

a lot. My bookshelves were lined with weighty tomes. The personal essays I wrote tackled deep

issues, as did my memoir. I had filled 215 personal journals with yearnings and strategies about

becoming the best me, which did not include making the best joke, or writing a good humor


I was well aware of the many benefits of humor, having researched therapeutic laughter

decades earlier. I had even collected material on Humor Aerobics which helped practitioners get

in touch with their “Funny Bone” and had given a series of Humor Aerobics workshops at the

senior center where I worked.

But Laughter Yoga (LY), an activity without words, except Ho Ho Ha Ha He He? This was

totally new to me.

Three months later, my husband and I attended Alexa Fong Drubay’s Laughter Yoga Leader

Training. Although we had always laughed and played a lot together, we realized we were still a

little too serious. We rarely watched comedies. Instead we chose heavy dramas and docu-

mentaries. And our professional lives deal with heavy, sober issues.  He is a clinical psychologist

and I facilitate journal workshops helping people get in touch with their wounds and emotional

loose ends.

When they heard about our plans, friends responded in one of two ways – “Great! I can’t

wait to take your Laughter Yoga workshop.” Or “I don’t believe in fake laughter. Who needs

that? Are you guys crazy?”

We didn’t think we were crazy. There’s nothing crazy about trying something new that might

enhance our lives, even if it’s a little unconventional.

I didn’t know what to expect with Laughter Yoga workshop. But when I looked into the eyes

of fellow laughers (a basic requirement) as we performed a variety of LY exercises, I truly felt as

if I were looking at flowers that had just opened. Seeing eyes sparkle was such a unifying feel-

\ing. We were reflecting joy, as flowers just opening reflect their moment of aliveness. It felt

very spiritual.

I learned that LY is not about faking laughter. Instead, it is about acquiring body-mind

wellness by using the breath to oxygenate the body and using childlike playfulness to connect

you with your own lost innocence and with one another at a heart level without judgment. It

focuses on training your diaphragm for breathing and laughing by using belly muscles.  Alexa

combined  laughter, deep breathing, running around the room, seated exercises, speaking

gibberish, dancing, experimentation, letting loose, singing, humming, connecting with others,

meditation and reflection. Research indicates “…the body cannot differentiate between acted and

genuine laughter. Both produce the same ‘happy chemistry.’”

At the beginning of the training, one participant shared, “I lost my laughter when I was a

child.”  I hadn’t lost my own laughter, but I realized that my basic serious nature needed recali-


Now my husband and I wake up and do a laughter song while still in bed. We talk gibberish

to each other, a standard LY exercise. And we talk about the LY workshops we will facilitate


Laughing, I think of Dr. Kataria – the 20th anniversary of his Laughter Yoga movement this

year and the  6000 Laughter Clubs in 72 countries. That’s a lot of people laughing with me! I

wonder who my husband and I will be laughing with on May 3, 2015, World Laughter Day.

And I wonder if the scoffers will ever open their minds and hearts for the most self-

empowering laugh of all. Will they ever just inhale deeply and say “HA HA HA HA HA HA?”