The Best Medicine: On the Merits of Being Absurd
By Melissa Carroll
Kids are ridiculous, and they’re awesome for it. They cackle at the top of their lungs in public, they bounce around, and they find the simplest things utterly amusing. Then these kids grow up, and they lose their easy laughter. Their muscles tighten and their breath shallows. Then these grown-up kids need to learn to let go all over again.
I got to try Laughter Yoga with PositiveLY Pat at Rasa Lila Fest in Tampa last March. (Hint hint, she’s coming to the Yoga Loft July 20th so sign up now!) I didn’t know what to expect. As usual, I showed up five minutes late; the group of 25 or so was standing in a circle, shouting “ho ho ha ha” into the air. It looked kind of goofy. Turns out, goofy was exactly what I was looking for. Forget pincha mayurasana, what my body, mind and spirit really needed was to let go and laugh.
Pat’s approach is smart — we began with simple chanting-type exercises and then progressed to the sillier stuff. I felt like I was in kindergarten again, and it felt good. But it wasn’t easy. As adults, we have been trained to care very much how we portray ourselves to the rest of the world, and this has left millions of us inhibited in our own skin, feeling too foolish to even belt out a little “HA!” in front of a group of strangers. The laughter in much of the exercises was forced, especially at the beginning, when Pat had to break us all out of our polite-society-selves and back into our freer, more childlike nature.
But the exercises also had practical applications. We imagined we were in a car, holding onto an imaginary steering wheel, driving ourselves over the room — silly, yes I know — and we had to run toward each other as if stuck in traffic. Then we promptly had to burst into laughter. Fake laughs, sure. Awkward interaction with people I didn’t know, alrighty. One fellow yogi, a student of mine, looked so hilarious. He was really getting into it. And I realized, you know what? Let’s look a little wacky.
And suddenly, as I drove my imaginary Nissan over the room, smiling maniacally, something within me broke loose. Real laughter spilled out over the fake, overtook it. The scene was hysterical. My body shook. And something deeper burst open. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. Some untapped ball of tension was lodged within me, and Laughter Yoga released it. I felt the energy break open, flood-gate style. I would have cried harder, but I had to pretend to open up my tax return in my hands and start guffawing to the other students. By the end, I was genuinely laughing hysterically, and I didn’t want it to stop. It ended up being the most memorable experience of the entire festival, and it reminded me of the potency and necessity of letting go—letting go of feeling awkward, of worrying what other people will think, of how I’m supposed to behave. It’s far more fun, and far more liberating, to lighten up and laugh life off.
Here’s Jordan Hicks‘ video of Pat from Rasa Lila Festival: