This month I met with the bright and delightful Dr. Kasim al-Mashat. Kasim has a background in counselling psychology and works at SFU’s Health and Counselling Services. He provides individual/group counselling, and his work includes leading weekly Laughter Yoga for staff and students. I appreciated Kasim’s insights about Laughter Yoga based on his background in psychology, and dedicated meditation practice, and his passion for and health and well-being on all levels. My chat with Kasim included as much laughing as it did talking.
Seia: How did you first learn about Laughter Yoga (LY)?
Kasim: I noticed someone who was laughing after [a meditation] retreat finished. His laughter was so genuine, so unfiltered. He told me about LY and to come try it out. I did the Google thing, looked up LY and figured maybe I’ll go try it.
S: What were your thoughts at your first Laughter Club?
K: [Laughter] The word that comes to mind is ‘zoo’. I thought ‘this isn’t for me’. My mind was challenged.
S: How did you feel after you left your first Laughter Club?
K: Very uplifted, and quite stunned. It wasn’t what I expected (holding yoga postures). It wasn’t easy for me to let go.
S: Have you ever gone to Laughter Club when you were feeling angry or sad?
K: Oh absolutely. That’s one of the gifts. I’ve entered [LY] different ways but always leave in a similar way, most of the time truly uplifted.
S: Would you describe yourself a being a generally happy person?
K: Certainly positive. It hasn’t been easy. LY keeps inviting me on that path of choosing wellness, choosing joy. It’s a choice it doesn’t happen by accident. I choose laughter.
S: Did you choose laughter as a kid?
K: [Laughter], I think so. But I got serious.
S: Is the seriousness what turned you onto meditation?
K: It did. It was this quest for truth, a deeper way of being in life.
S: What does LY teach you that you didn’t get out of meditation?
K: They are both after the same thing, which is being present in the moment. Laughter [is] permission to let loose, it recharges me for the sitting stillness.
S: What was your experience of Laughter Yoga Teacher Training you did with the founder of Laughter Yoga, Dr. Kataria?
K: Dr. K is truly a beautiful human being. It was such a gift to be with a group of people who wanted to dive into a realm of openness. It was a workout for the stomach too!
S: What are some other benefits of LY?
K: There’s a lot of research on the medical and psychological benefits, for me the big part is taking myself less seriously. It recharges my battery. It has added colour to live, I feel more creative. [Also], I don’t get colds as often!
S: If you could bring LY to any group anywhere in the world, who would it be?
I think we are all well connected. [I believe in] spreading laughter with whomever we’re with, wherever we are at.
S: If you could send one message to people about LY what would it be?
K: Give it a chance. I’ve never seen anyone not laugh!
Kasim is a certified Laughter Yoga Teacher. His next training is April 2012!