During a recently held Laugh Fest in Michigan, Laughter Yoga instructor Angēla Essick Dykes conducted a series of laughter sessions which were designed to unleash laughs and inspire a sense of pure, unbridled joy. According to Dykes participants do not need any mat or yoga clothes to do Laughter Yoga; all they need is to leave their inhibitions behind and have fun.
But the same was not true when she first came for a laughter session during a previous Laugh Fest. She loved yoga and took her mat and clothes with her. When the instructor said she didn’t need any of that, she felt rebuffed and still went through with it, but somewhat half-heartedly.
Dykes was hoping Laughter Yoga could help her work through a deep depression which came on after a near-fatal car accident in 2008. She broke 35 bones and everyone thought she wasn’t going to live. Her life as a marathon runner, professional counselor, graduate level adjunct professor, and student was gone in an instant. She describes it as a flip being switched in her brain that wouldn’t allow her to find or experience joy, even with therapy.
Even though her first round with Laughter Yoga wasn’t that great, she came back for a second time and felt different after leaving. The third time, she fully immersed herself in the experience and that’s all it took. She was hooked. “This flipped the switch for me,” she said. “I felt that joy again.”
Highly motivated, she trained to become an instructor and started leading the laughter sessions regularly for Laugh Fest. She has spread Laughter Yoga cheer to senior living centers, churches, and corporations, and this gives her great personal satisfaction and joy.