This week, Erol Herold and I sat cross-legged on the floor of Open Door Yoga Studio on Commercial Drive. He shared with me that the first time he came to Laughter Yoga he stood at the door but couldn’t bring himself to join the group. Getting past his initial uneasiness about Laughter Yoga allowed Erol to discover an enjoyable practice to laugh his mind calm.
Seia: What drew you to Laughter Yoga?
Erol: I sailed with a Captain (also a Laughter Yoga Leader) who said “come to Laughter Yoga.” Over the years, he kept asking me. I was always skeptical. [I thought] well that’s kind of just silly really. Why do you laugh, if you have no reason to laugh?
One day [years later] I came to the door and then I left.
Seia: Did you think they were acting really weird?
Erol: Yes. But when I went back, I enjoyed it and I kept coming back.
Seia: Do you think the mind is drawn to laughter?
Erol: Yes. [Laughter] separates stress from the mind, and the mind becomes calm, silent, beautiful, the real you.
Seia: If you didn’t come to Laughter Yoga for a month would you notice a difference, would you miss it?
Erol: I’ve never gone a month [without attending Laughter Yoga] since I started, I probably would miss it. It helps to come every week. The mind starts to understand the whole concept of Laughter Yoga.
Seia: What is the concept of Laughter Yoga, in your mind?
Erol: The mind produces constant stress, you react to that [stress] by laughing. You laugh with your mind, to your mind, and become one.
Seia: Is that the ‘yoga’ piece for you – that ‘becoming one’ with yourself through laughter?
Erol: Absolutely, yes. Yoga, meditation, Laughter Yoga – exercises for the mind, to calm the mind.
Seia: And doing these Laughter Yoga exercises – with lots of movement and energy – you’re saying this calms the mind?
Erol: Oh, yes. The mind is a noisy instrument, constantly making noise. So what you do is make noise with your mind and you calm the mind down.
Seia: Like a release valve?
Erol: Yes, it’s a release valve of your mind.
Seia: When you were a child, did laughter help you with stress?
Erol: [Whenever] I had a group of people, I was clowning them.
Seia: Were you a class clown?
Erol: Yes, I was entertaining. [One day] I ran out of material. I was doing jokes and imitations and then I had nothing to say and I started laughing, superficially. They looked at me and I forced the laughter. The other people found it so funny – we all laughed. I didn’t know what Laughter Yoga was then.
Seia: It sounds like you’ve always been in touch with the instrument of laughter.
Erol: We all are. Everybody. The only problem is we are not aware of it.
Seia: Do you think we are more in touch with it when we are kids?
Erol: Absolutely, when we are kids everything is more natural. As you grow up you start identifying with what your mind says and you drift from awareness.
Seia: Would you say that laughter brings you to a state of enlightenment?
Erol: Yes, because when you laugh you are fully present.
Seia: What is one of your favorite exercises?
Erol: I like spontaneity. Just let go! If you don’t know your next movement -it’s beautiful. You may be a little excited, but something will come.
Seia: If you were to meet the founder of Laughter Yoga, Dr. Madan Kataria, what would you say?
Erol: I would just laugh, because I would feel at home with him.
Learn more about how you can Laugh Your Mind Calm. Check out the book Laughter, Tears, Silence: Expressive Meditations to Calm Your Mind and Open Your Heart by Pragito Dove.