Michelle and Yasmin Soufian are on a mission to bring laughter to New Yorkers, one laughter yoga class at a time. As instructors of this unique style of yoga they believe that happiness is the best medicine for the pressures of city life.
The Rest of the Story
Michelle, 28, and Yasmin Soufian, 24, are laughter yoga instructors from Great Neck, New York, but unlike many of their fellow teachers they are bringing the unique practice to much younger audience.
In 2012, they walked into their first laughter yoga session and instantly fell in love with the happy, empowering atmosphere. The natural next step according to Michelle was to train to be laughter yoga instructors.
Laughter yoga isn’t about bending and stretching as much as it is about controlled breathing and learning to laugh at life difficulties and all. The practice was started by Dr. Madan Kataria in 1995, and it has slowly spread across the world as way to find healing and happiness, according to Laughter Yoga University, which was started by Kataria.
Michelle and Yasmin say they were drawn to it mostly because of the connection they felt with complete strangers. It is something they say is the focus of their teaching as instructors. They point out the fact that children laugh hundreds of times a day, but that adults typically only laugh about a dozen times. Their interest is in reaching younger people to help them prevent that from happening in the first place.
They have struggled to establish consistent classes as students in college and grade school are not always available to attend. They also lost their main studio space a few months ago, so they are seeking new opportunities with sites like Meetup and by partnering with stores like Athleta in Midtown to reach new people.
(0:00 – 0:19) Yasmin: A lot of times they’ll be like “I’ve never heard of that. What is that?” And they’ll get very curious. And I guess everybody has a different idea about what it is. Um… I forgot what I was going to say… I’m sorry. [Laughing]
(0:30 – 0:49) Michelle: It’s really a nice way of letting go. And we joke around that it’s also like how a sexual experience feels where you just let go and you leave your mind and you can just really be in the moment and connect to something bigger. And that’s how feels, too. You can’t really be in your head and laughing at the same time. [Laughing throughout]
(0:50 – 1:05) All: He He Ha Ha Ha!
Yasmin: Again deep breath in. [breathing]
Yasmin: Deep breath in. [breathing] Release!
Yasmin: Ok, one more time, really loud this time. Inhale. [breathing]
(1:06 – 1:09) All: [singing] Yay!
(1:10 – 1:26) The classes that Michelle and I teach are very different from the ones that we’ve attended. I think people have said that we’re like the youngest laughter leaders they’ve ever met, and we really are invested in this mission of spreading laughter and allowing people to let go and feel non-judgment. And I guess take on these like more positive values.
(1:27 – 1:32) All: [clapping] He he ha ha ha! He he ha ha ha! He he ha ha ha!
(1:32 – 1:49) Michelle: It’s one thing to kind of sit at home and laugh and be funny, but when you can do it publicly it can it’s great way of bonding with other people. And just to see random people in New York City, a city where people, you know, all have this six degrees of separation but never really talk to each other. It was really special see people try something new together.
(1:55 – 2:15) [Muffled talking] Yasmin: One of the most rewarding parts of laughter yoga is at the end, when people go around and talk about their experiences and they say they feel non-judgment. That makes me feel so good.
(2:16 – 2:41) Yasmin: You take a deep breath in, raise your shoulders to your ears and then release… HA! [laughing] You were supposed to do that will me. [laughing]
Michelle: Let’s go for it!
Yasmin: Ok, take a deep breath in, raise your shoulders to your ears, and release into a loud HA! Again [breathing] HA! Deep breath in. [breathing] Release! HA!