Contrary to popular belief, one does not need a sense of humor to laugh.

That is the concept behind laughter yoga.

Sari Huhtala, a certified laughter yoga instructor in the Greater Sudbury area, explained laughter yoga is a combination of breathing techniques, meditation, and unconditional laughter.

“It’s really not about jokes,” she said. “It’s about encouraging people to laugh without any external stimulus. That means your ability to laugh without relying on something funny happening or something basically out of your control.”

According to, the concept of laughter yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter — one gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.

Huhtala said it’s a simple concept that everybody has within themselves.

“I start out introducing the concept that you can create laughter just like that, because it’s very foreign to people. I have them take a deep breath in and exhale with laughter, and they realize ‘Wow, that was easy.’”

Huhtala learned the practice five years ago, under its creator, Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from India. “He introduced laughter yoga in the mid-1990s, recognizing that laughter has a whole slew of health benefits for individuals,” Huhtala explained.

Physiological benefits include increased levels of serotonin levels — “that feel good hormone” — and the release of natural endorphins, “which is almost like a natural pain killer,” she said. It also relaxes the body, and massages a person’s internal organs. “If you have asthma or anything, a bout of laughter is a wonderful way to loosen things up,” Huhtala added.

Cardiovascular wise, a one-minute bout of laughter is equivalent to being on a rowing machine for 10 minutes, and it also lowers blood pressure and stress levels.