So I got a call last weekend when I was in LA from a youngster named Michelle doing a report on a topic of her choosing: laughter. She was charged with interviewing an expert on the topic, and it was fun to talk together. I asked if I could post the paper she wrote, and she said yes:
I slowly walked into the hallway and turned the knob on the door leading to the teacher’s lounge. I was tightly clutching my cell phone as I sat at the table rearranging my papers again and again. I got up and started pacing as Michelle, my classmate, reassured me that it was going to be fine. The blend of leftover pasta, soup and banana filled my nose as I nervously looked around for any excuse to put this phone call off. I finally came to the conclusion that there was no excuse and I just have to conquer my fear and get it over with. My fingers shook with terror as I carefully typed the ten digit phone number wondering if it was a cell number or office number. This number belonged to Ms. Dattner, a laughter yoga instructor and comedian in San Francisco, who has toured the world bringing smiles to people’s faces. I figured she would be the perfect person to talk to for information on laughter.
After we got the introductions out of the way I started to breathe normally again and I relaxed my tensed up shoulders. She started by telling me about her laughter yoga class. Ms. Dattner started her own club that has breathing exercises based on yoga techniques but also laughter incorporated into the class. When people told her about laughter clubs she was so intrigued that she immediately wanted to become a laughter yoga instructor. Since she is also a comedian, laughter is in her blood and it comes very naturally for her.
Laughter yoga is used for relaxation as well as relieving pain. “When I have a really good laughter session, I feel more present and I feel way less pain and stress. … [Laughter is] way more effective than taking an Ibuprophen.” Ms. Dattner believes.
Ms. Dattner claims that laughter has changed her life. She finds herself laughing just for the sake of laughing. Laughter gives us adults a feeling of playfulness that you lose as you grow-up. The way she keeps that feeling in her daily life is by doing her job. Her comedy and laughter yoga reminds her to laugh. To incorporate laughter in her daily life she is even thinking about holding a daily class on the internet.
By this point I was completely relaxed and comfortable with talking on the phone as she started to explain that at first most people think that laughter yoga is just plain weird. Although that is just a first impression, for most people that is their only impression. Ms. Dattner admits that it is a little challenging finding pupil but once someone goes and tells people how great it is, the word gets around. She says that a lot of interest is attracted over the internet. Laughter yoga originated in India and is a huge thing there. Some schools have even adopted it into their morning assembly. It won’t be long until laughter yoga takes over the world as the universal way to relax and release stress and tension.
This was the first time I got to hear one person’s opinion about laughter. I could tell that she genuinely loves what she does and she truly wanted to help me. At every pause in the conversation she would fill the space with either laughter or some sort of noise to let me know that she was thinking of more to say.
Our conversation winded down but this was the most powerful and touching moment. One word inspired me, it’s simple yet meaningful. “Kids naturally laugh, and that is one thing that no one can take away from you…ever. “My advice is simply, not to stop laughing when you get older” Ms. Dattner remarks. I came away from that interview with pages of notes but only that remark planted in my brain forever, and it will stay rooted in my head just as a reminder for me when needed.
Because my topic is laughter it has really changed the way I look at life. I laugh at any possible opportunity, and I am more conscious in observing the things that make me laugh. This interview was so uplifting because she (Ms. Dattner) has made a career out of something she loves.”I’m inspired to teach things I want to receive” Ms. Dattner states. I make others laugh in hope to get some chuckles back. The reason why I chose laughter as my I – Search topic was so I could have an excuse for doing something I love for two and a half months and call it schoolwork. I aspire to have the same principals as this very inspirational leader that I got the honor of talking to.”