LaughFest: Laughter Yoga Helped Instructor Reclaim Her Joy

If laughter is the best medicine, laughter yoga could be the prescription you’re looking for.

It was for Angēla Essick Dykes, who is leading a series of laughter yoga sessions throughout LaughFest. During a laughter yoga session, participants take part in a series of low-impact exercises and group interaction activities designed to unleash laughs and inspire a sense of pure, unbridled joy. You don’t need a mat and you don’t even have to wear official yoga clothes, but you do need to leave your inhibitions at the door. Things get silly, and Dykes said that’s the fun of it.

Angēla Essick Dykes leading a session of laughter yoga at LaughFest.
Angēla Essick Dykes leading a session of laughter yoga at LaughFest.

She wasn’t quite as enamored of the practice the first time she came to a session during a previous LaughFest.

“I love yoga,” Dykes said. “I brought my mat, I brought my clothes.”

When the instructor told her she didn’t need any of that, Dykes felt rebuffed. She still went through with it, but somewhat half-heartedly.

Dykes was really hoping laughter yoga could help her work through a deep depression. She’d become depressed after being involved in a near-fatal car accident in 2008. Dykes broke 35 bones in her body.

“They didn’t think I was going to live,” she said.

The life she knew – marathon runner, professional counselor with a full caseload, 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 hadn’t been ideal, she came back for a second time and threw herself into the exercises a little more. She 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.”

From there, she completed training to become an instructor, even studying under Dr. Madan Kataria, who founded the laughter yoga movement almost 20 years ago. This is her third year leading classes for LaughFest. She also regularly volunteers her services at Gilda’s Club and has spread laughter yoga cheer to senior living centers, churches, and corporations.

Dykes said the health benefits of laughter are vast and it gives her great personal satisfaction to spread the smiles and joy that result from a laughter yoga session.

If you’d like to try laughter yoga, there are still plenty of opportunities available through LaughFest. You can learn more about Dykes and the services she offers at her website.

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Photo credit: Julie Bitely


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