Features & Columns

Laughing Yoga with Ramesh Pandey

The laughing yogi, Ramesh Pandey, spreads the mirth at Satori Tea Company in San Jose
THE JOKE'S ON ALL OF US: Yogi Ramesh Pandey wants to teach the world how to relax with a good laugh.

Just talking to Yogi Ramesh Pandey on the phone makes me laugh. In this case, my laughter is a form of applause. I don't know how old he is, but he has an exuberant Indian accent and many stories to tell.

The mirth just oozes out of the phone, through my ear canal and into my brain, where it spreads down my spinal cord, through my destroyed nervous system and radiates outward. I can only imagine the utter hysteria that will transpire when he orchestrates an ensemble of laughing yoga at Satori Tea Company on April Fool's Day. Tea and yoga—what a combination.

Originally from the Himalayas, Yogi Ramesh began yoga at the age of 5 and has practiced every day for longer than I have been alive. He is the founder of the Universal Yoga Center in Palm Springs and even produces a television show, Universal Yogi.

He has performed international laughing yoga shows in Hawaii, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and India. He has schooled doctors, teachers and patients. Everyone from Oprah to Roseanne Barr has elicited his mirth for the health benefits of their audiences. Now, for the first time in the current cycle of life, he will crystallize in downtown San Jose.

It all began, says Yogi Ramesh, in the Himalayas. His father never touched money, but he was always happy and laughing.

"From childhood I had a desire to awaken myself in heart, and soul, and teach about the spiritual life," he says. "Breathing, laughing, how to live healthy and happy by nature's way of healing."

After coming to the United States in 1984, he settled in the Los Angeles area and ran his own yoga studio for years, but it was not until he went up to the mountains and began dancing in the fog that he evolved into a laughing yoga teacher. It must have been the elevation.

"I started dancing and singing and said, 'Oh my God, I'm happy!'" His Indian accent becomes higher-pitched and squeaky as he tells the story. "I felt so good. So after 39 years of doing yoga, I got an idea of how to start laughing yoga. I'm happy! I'm relaxed!"

In fact, Ramesh sounds like a toy being wound up and spinning over and over again. The mirth is contagious. He says he teaches workshops all across the country. He appears at festivals, events and be-ins. He offers certification programs, in case others want to start teaching laughing yoga in their hometowns. Laughing really is the best medicine. It is a cure for stress, good for weight loss and leads to a more relaxed state of mind. It even helps cancer patients, he says.

"This is the best way to live until 100 and it's tax free," he says, laughing.

At Satori Tea Company, participants in the class are in for a treat, Ramesh promises. They will come away healthier, happier and more animated.

"Once they feel my energy, they will wake up," he says. "They will learn to clean their bodies, how to lose weight, how to get a clean heart and lungs. Laughing yoga helps inner sickness and stress reduction.

"I'll teach them how to do yoga anywhere at any time—at work, driving a car, taking a shower, on their cell phones, anywhere, anytime. It's good for everything, blood pressure, sinuses, diabetics, asthma, it's the best medicine. Everyone will be breathing, laughing and energizing their heart and mind."

The venue is a perfect match. After 18 months in business, Satori Tea Company has proven to be a unique spot in San Jose. You don't need to be geriatric or someone who carries a parasol. The esoteric alchemy of their ingredients will have a provocative effect on anyone's psyche.

If one walks in and asks something like, "What d'ya got for a destroyed nervous system?" the proprietors will brew a concoction unavailable anywhere else. They even carry ginger guayusa, which I refer to as the "hallucinogenic rainforest blend."

All in all, it's a healing combination, tea and laughing yoga. Only a fool would disagree.

Laughing Yoga Event Sunday; 11am; $10 donation Also Sunday, 1pm, at San Pedro Square Market www.thesatoriteacompany.com