Karen Joanne – Laughter yoga and First Dates

Without her prior knowledge, Karen Joanne’s best friend put her forward for the TV show “First Dates”. She thinks Karen Joanne has been single for far too long. She thinks this is the solution. Karen Joanne seems horrified at the prospect, but I wonder if secretly she thinks it might be quite fun. Don’t get me wrong, not fun as a match making exercise, as I can’t see she would enjoy the prospect of two million people watching her on a blind date. But fun because I think she would end up in an absurd situation, trying to get her stern date to loosen up by teaching him some of her laughter yoga.

“It was like being a battery hen.”

Karen Joanne used to work eight hours a day in a call centre, sitting down all day at a desk answering phone calls. It was hard to leave her desk, as it would show up in her manager’s office that she had logged out from the phone system. This was not looked on kindly by her manager. “It was like being a battery hen,” Karen Joanne states indignantly. One day at work, a colleague remarked to Karen Joanne that she was at her most animated when she spoke about her Thai boxing training and had she considered working in the fitness industry. “Honesty, it was like a light bulb moment. I literally went YES!” So over the next few months she enrolled in fitness industry intense courses to gain some qualifications, ditched her call centre job, moved out of London and started on her fitness career. “I didn’t care I’d taken such a big pay drop, I absolutely loved it, helping people to move”. That was twenty years ago, and thankfully she hasn’t sat down at a desk for that long ever again.

Karen Joanne’s teaching style in all her various exercise classes around Dacorum, is very much about having fun. “In classes you have to give a lot of instructions, so if you were to give instructions in the wrong tone of voice, people will just feel like they are being told off… As soon as I get in the class I’m like ‘ooh, you’ve got a lazy bottom today,’” she giggles. I wholeheartedly agree as I remember going to a yoga class and feeling like I was at school again. I never went back.

It is infectious and so this in turn makes me giggle.

Taking in mind Karen Joanne’s style, it is quite fitting that one of the classes she runs is laughter yoga. She says that in the class you don’t need to tell jokes or try to be funny, so if you were thinking about a career in stand up and thought this may be the class for you to try out your material, think again. She shows me the greeting game she does at her laughter class. She grabs my hand and shakes it and just starts giggling. Although I know this is fake laughing, it is infectious and so this in turn makes me giggle, until we are both genuinely giggling away. And as Karen Joanne says, the body doesn’t know the difference between the first initial fake laughter and genuine laughter, so you still gain all the health benefits. “If you laugh you lower your stress hormones, your cortisol drops, you get endorphins, you breath better and it feels good”.

But Karen Joanne is very well placed to know not to fake her own happiness. Ten years ago she left her last boyfriend because, in her words, “he wasn’t very nice, so that was good to leave”. And in those ten years she has spent a lot of time, “just being who I want to be, buying my house, deciding what I wanted from my business.” But she doesn’t come across as being cynical about relationships either. She tells me about the wonderful relationship her brother and his wife have. “They give me faith that I might actually meet someone who is perfect for me. They make my heart sing, they are so lovely together”.

I would still love to see her on First Dates, although I admit that it is from a purely selfish point of view. I can see her in the toilets at First Dates, giggling down the phone to her best friend at how mismatched her date is and hatching an escape plan. I think I would just laugh and laugh, and it certainly wouldn’t be fake laughter.

RAW publishes interviews regularly about a community member from Hemel Hempstead or the surrounding villages. To keep up to date with RAW’s interviews, click follow at the top of this page or like RAW’s Facebook page, highlighted at the side of the page.