Laughter fills the Sarasota Mindfulness Institute, where instructor Mary Masi practices “the milkshake,” one of the exercises she uses in her weekly laughter yoga workshop. As she pours an imaginary milkshake back and forth between two imaginary cups, Masi’s laughter grows with each pour. By the time she is done, Masi is experiencing a full-on fit of laughter.
“If you just do it, you will laugh,” says Masi.
Laughter yoga is a form of pranayama yoga that uses a combination of controlled breathing and voluntary laughter through playful exercises such as the “lion’s breath” and “aloha.”
Masi has been teaching at the Sarasota Mindfulness Institute since 2012. She volunteers to lead free guided meditation and laughter yoga, as well as teaches paid classes, including zentangle meditative art, yin yoga and more.
The role of instructor comes naturally to Masi; both her parents worked at colleges, and in the late ’80s and early ’90s, she was a certified Cecchetti ballet instructor at Dance Arts School in Boca Raton.
Meditation has always been a part of Masi’s life. She began meditating daily when she was 14 after her father introduced her to the peaceful practice.
When she found herself at a crossroads in her career as an instructional design specialist at State College of Florida in 2010, Masi decided to hang up her business suit and return to creativity and movement.
Teaching laughter yoga is perfect for the smiley mother of one.
“My brother says niceness is my character flaw,” she says, laughing.
Masi was introduced to laughter yoga in April 2013 after falling ill. The exercises helped her feel better, and later that year Masi spent 80 hours studying laughter yoga under inventor Dr. Madan Kataria.
Masi says the best part of her workshop is its simplicity.
“We have these common denominators: moving, enjoying and laughing,” she says. “(My favorite part) is seeing that and being able to make that connection.”
Neighborhood: Burns Square
Your neighbor since: 2007
IN HER OWN WORDS: “I love that it’s actually a neighbor-hood, where we recognize each other and support each other.” — Mary Masi