One of my gurus and co-founder of Jivamukti yoga Sharon Gannon writes:
“Laughter is an ancient yogic healing technique that can rid you of deeply held negative emotions. It has profound therapeutic value in restoring wellbeing and health, leading to happiness. Laughter induces relaxation, and because of its ability to free the body and mind of pent-up emotions that are obstacles to self-reflection, it is a potent prerequisite to meditation. It is good when laughter is spontaneous, but when emotions have been buried for so long that they have become deep-seated tensions, the conscious practice of laughing can be very healing.”
Gannon then goes on to instruct students to roll around on the ground to induce laughing. Though we are not required as Jivamukti instructors to teach this exact approach to the focus, it is highly recommended. When your guru asks you to do something, a true yogi will take it upon himself to execute the request because performing a service for your teacher is one of the greatest acts of karma yoga.
That’s exactly what the Telluride Yoga Festival (TYF) is for me: an act of karma yoga in service to my teachers, my community, and – I am holding my nose and jumping as I say this – to the global community as well.
In 2007, I took the Jivamukti teacher training after having practiced Jivamukti with Alanna Kaivalya for years in Denver, Colorado. In the training, we watched documentaries about animal rights, the environment, GMO’ed foods, and quantum physics. You may wonder what these subjects have to do with teaching yoga and my answer would be… everything. Why? Because, yoga is the only thing that I can think of that is both what you do and the end result: you practice yoga, to achieve yoga. Just like a person might practice laughing in a yoga class to attain happiness.
I started the TYF because I wanted to create an event that directly tied the practice of yoga to the environment and animal rights, because everything and everyone is connected by a cosmic consciouness whether we realize it or not. The vision was to dismantle the notion that yoga is only a health science that helps an individual become more flexible and less stressed out, and to offer each ticket holder a karmic contribution to the environment by donating 25% of our net proceeds.
The word yoga means “to yoke.” To yoke what you may ask? To yoke, connect, or even re-connect the physical being to the spiritual being, to bring the practitioner into the understanding of the oneness of all beings, to become enlightened if you will.
Which is why it makes sense to practice laughter, to bring joy into your life. As one of my most favorite Ashtanga teachers Tim Miller says: “If you want to be enlightened, you have to lighten up.”
If you want to be joyful, you have to let go of whatever it is you are carrying around that doesn’t bring joy, risk laughing like a hyena in front of a bunch of strangers, or worse, in front of people you know. While doing this, it is also important to remember as well what a great teacher, the Dalai Lama, says: “Humility is necessary for enlightenment.”
So if you’re feeling like you could use a little more joy, laughter, and peace in your life, if you want to step on the bottom rung of the ladder towards enlightenment, stop by the Telluride Yoga Center and take a Jivamukti class. For a schedule, go to tellurideyoga.com.
I promise to laugh with you, never at you….