My background is in the performing arts. I have been presenting comic mime, health, literacy, and stress management educational programs in schools, libraries, and theaters for over 30 years. In 2009, Mary Rives and Keith Carlson offered a Laughter Yoga session at my performing arts guild. I loved it. I felt great on the drive home and for several hours afterward. That night, I read online everything I could about Laughter Yoga and Dr. Kataria. I ordered and studied several Laughter Yoga books, CDs, and DVDs. I shared Laughter Yoga with everyone I met. I set up a number of friends that I would call and, without a word, simply laugh together to relieve stress.
In 2010, I took my Laughter Yoga Leader Training with Rebecca J. Foster and immediately set up a weekly Laughter Yoga club. I started offering classes in senior centers. I also presented free public awareness programs and mini-demos everywhere I could. I started including Laughter Yoga follow-along segments in my comic mime shows, health shows, and stress management programs. I did over 500 of these shows, sharing Laughter Yoga with audiences of 200 to 600 people at a time. From a desire deep in my heart to share Laughter Yoga with people near and far, I created several “Laugh Along with Robert” YouTube videos. To my surprise, they became very popular and increased my laughing audience worldwide by the thousands.
In 2011, I attended Jeffrey Brier’s Laughter Yoga Teacher Training and began leading two-day Laughter Yoga Leader Trainings and presenting Laughter Yoga in corporations, schools, hospitals, fitness studios, minimum security drug and alcohol rehab facilities . . . you name it. In 2013, I attended and assisted Dr. Kataria’s 5-day Laughter Yoga Teacher Training in Orlando, Florida , and was invited to Japan to share my style of Laughter Yoga. In 2015, I became a Laughter Ambassador and in 2016 I was trained and mentored by Dr. Kataria to be a Certified Laughter Yoga Master Trainer. I have taught over 30 Laughter Yoga Leader Trainings in the USA and Japan.
Personally, the real benefits of Laughter Yoga came when I committed myself to practicing pranayama and Laughter Yoga everyday. I have witnessed myself become more playful, joyful, generous, giving, friendly, peaceful. and relaxed. I am more present with my family and friends. I had a difficult/distant relationship with my father and in his later years he happily attended my Laughter Yoga classes. I believe it may have eased some of the symptoms of his Parkinson's disease. My younger sister occasionally attends my Laughter club and my older sister graduated from my first Laughter Yoga Leader training in 2012.
Mentally and physically, I am much healthier now. I get sick less often, can exercise more, and breathe more easily than ever before. In my early 30s, I suffered from several trauma-induced and stress-related illnesses including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and allergies. To heal, I practiced mindfulness meditation, Tai-Chi, Qigong, and yoga. Since 2009, Laughter Yoga has been a major part of my healing process and has helped to greatly reduce many of my symptoms.
Socially, things have opened up for me too. I am a better listener now and more understanding and compassionate. People everywhere are friendlier to me. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of a social network of laughing, caring, Laughter Yoga friends all around the world!
Professionally, I am much more understanding of my clients’ needs and am able to “go with flow” with greater ease when "surprise" situations occur. Laughter Yoga has been exceptionally beneficial for me as a performer and speaker. It has given me tremendous control of my breathing and vocal quality. I am able to give more of myself and be of greater service. Laughter Yoga has helped me reach, and truly connect with, an even more diverse group of people, in an ever-widening circle of joy. I have cotaught with several Laughter Yoga professionals and look forward to more laughing partnerships in the future. The ripple effect of Laughter Yoga is amazing and very profound.
Robert Rivest is presenting Laughter, Expression, and Joy on December 8.
Find out more about Robert at robertrivest.com.