Sisters Michelle and Yasmin Soufian stumbled into a laughter yoga class expecting it to be like any other session. Instead, they wondered into a world that forever changed their lives. Since then, they have become instructors, trying to brighten up New York with one laughter at a time.
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Sisters Michelle and Yasmin Soufian are laughter yoga instructors. In the day and age of a politically split country, constant stress and overseas atrocities, these siblings believe in laughter’s healing abilities.
“So we have seen some people really progress through laughter yoga – people that have had illnesses – because it’s very healing to be doing laughter yoga,” Michelle Soufian said.
While yoga in the title might be deceiving, laughter yoga is more about breathing, laughing and the human connection. Laughing is just a way for people to open up and accept each other. “We try to give out these positive messages of self-love, gratitude, self-compassion, and letting go of judgment and humanity and just connecting with each other,” said Yasmin.
These healing teachings come from Dr. Kataria, a famous Indian doctor that started the movement in 1995. Since then, his self-published book “Laugh for No Reason,” has been spread throughout the world, catching the attention of people like the Soufian sisters.
“Kids laugh an average of 400 times a day, while adults laugh an average of five,” according to Dr. Kataria. So it is important for adults to “relearn that there’s so much humor around us,” said Yasmin.
Although videos and articles have covered laughter yoga in the past, an in-depth look at Michelle and Yasmin, who are younger than the average instructor, can give an insight on how younger generations are experiencing this movement.
Michelle: (:07-:15) We joke around that it’s like how a sexual experience feels, like how you can just let go and leave your mind and you could really be in that moment and connect to something bigger.
Yasmin: (:27-:38) Kids laugh an average of 400 times a day and adults laugh an average of five. That’s a big discrepancy. So as we grow up, we lose this sense of playfulness.
Yasmin: (:40-:50) It’s about relearning that like there’s so much humor around us and there’s so much opportunity to be playful and connect with other people. And a lot of times we, we’re so disconnected with other people and how we’re feeling.
Yasmin: (:50-:52) What is laughter yoga? It is like the hardest thing to describe.
Michelle: (:56-1:10) Initially, we thought it was something fun that we would be doing. People keep telling us, ‘You guys have young, youthful, magnetic, contagious laughter. You guys should start teaching yourselves.’
Michelle: (1:10-1:15) It’s considered a yoga, not because we are doing poses, it’s just because of the laughter breath that we use.
Yasmin: (In Class) Deep breath in. Release. One more time, really loud this time.
Class: He, he, ha, ha, ha. He, he, ha, ha, ha. Very good. Very good. Yay.
Michelle: (1:37-1:41) We also grew up with a dad, who could literally talk to anyone.
Michelle: (1:54-2:08)We really grew up finding laughter and play and just like seeing someone as a soul and not as a person that’s intimidating and scary. And so it was really a blessing that we were able to grow up with that background.
Yasmine: (2:10-2:20) So yeah, I guess awkward is a good way to describe the class. It might feel awkward for people. And maybe that’s even the intention to let go, experience that awkwardness and be like ‘This is okay. We all experience this.’
Michelle: (2:20-2:31) We want people to feel very energized by the end of the session. Let out all their silliness. Let out all their playfulness. Feel like they reconnected with something inside them that is so youthful.
Yasmine: (2:32-2:42) For people to just feel like they can, I guess, express themselves is a really big gift. And if we can help facilitate that it’s amazing. It’s very rewarding.