How Laughter Yoga Discovered Me
Marja Pirie, CLYT, Canada

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It’s funny that I am teaching laughter as I was never known as someone who made others laugh. I could never remember a joke or think of a witty comment that would illicit laughter. As a child, I grew up in Malaysia to Dutch and Finnish parents. While I loved laughing with my sister and at my father’s silly antics, I soon lost my laughter, as years of boarding school created feelings of loneliness, loss and separation. I grew up with many fears and insecurities but thankfully I loved learning and came to rely only on my intellect. My motto became “Trust only things that can be logically rationalized”. It was certainly less painful to be in my head than my heart. Feelings got buried inside and moving often resulted in my becoming a shy and serious person as well as one who had a hard time feeling like I belonged.

My family moved to Burlington, Ontario in 1962 and I became a Canadian citizen in 1972. While life seemed more normal on the outside I continued to judge myself harshly and attract experiences to prove to myself that I wasn’t good enough. However, my logical thinking resulted in a career as a math teacher for more than 30 years. Thankfully, I was also busy raising a family and I loved being a mother. I had fun and loving times with my family and am grateful for my husband and two wonderful children.

Life-changing events began for me in 1999 when my parents afforded me a leave of absence from teaching for the year during which my mother passed away. Emotions came flooding out and I never knew that I could cry so much! However, I had time to read and learn new things, and so began a spiritual path and search for natural healing methods. Excited about these new ways of healing such as Aromatherapy, Acupuncture and Energy Healing, I retired from teaching in 2001. I wanted to help others so I began a natural healing business. But then my father passed away suddenly, both our children went off to university, and my husband could not relate to my new interests, so again I felt empty, alone and sad. For the next 2 years I immersed myself in studying and experiencing many different forms of healing, searching for ways to help myself and others feel better. However, other than my courses, I was still alone helping a few clients each week.

I didn’t search for laughter – it found me. I guess when the student is ready the teacher shows up! One day in September 2004, I was invited to demonstrate some of my healing products, the Chi Machine and Far-Infrared dome from HTE Americas, at the opening of an Ayurvedic Centre in Toronto where, quite by coincidence, Dr. Madan Kataria and his lovely wife, Madhuri, shared their story and did some laughter exercises. I immediately loved it since I didn’t need to remember any jokes and it was easy.

Rediscovering the mindless laughter of my childhood felt so good and immensely freeing. I signed up for my first Laughter Yoga course the following week. However, for almost 8 months after the training, I had many excuses as to why I could not start a laughter club. But other people showed up to help me start and lead the laughter club and I am so grateful for their help. Less than a year after starting the laughter club, I took my teacher training in Bolton, near Toronto. I have now been leading the Burlington-Oakville Laughter Club for 4 years and love teaching others to become certified Laughter Yoga leaders as well as doing presentations or workshops for a variety of groups.

I had no idea what a profound effect committing to laugh so often would have on my life. It has improved the quality of my life and my relationships, and has balanced my emotions. It brought me out of hiding, and created laughter community where I have a sense of belonging and connection. It is very rewarding to have helped so many people. Now, I am laughing a lot more, loving a lot more, having more fun, and feeling much happier. Because laughter makes me feel good, it helps me to focus on what’s possible and how I can serve and help others, rather than thinking about what’s wrong, which I used to do a lot.

Laughter Yoga has helped me to be more in my heart and less in my head. With greater self-love and acceptance, a lifetime of self-criticism is falling away. Yes, I still cry, and negative emotions and experiences continue to happen, but I am acknowledging my feelings and choosing to let them go rather than suppressing or holding on to them. Laughter is a wonderful way to release my troubles so I can continue on my healing path with more freedom and innocence. Laughing has lessened my fear of making mistakes, and improved my creativity, my leadership skills and my self-confidence: I now love speaking about laughter yoga whether at presentations or in the media as I am passionate about sharing and spreading this fun and easy tool for enhanced wellbeing, joy and peace.

Recently, I met a student to whom I had taught maths 10 years ago. She could hardly believe I was the same person. She said I had a glow about me and looked 20 years younger!

Very good – very good – YAY!!!

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