Laughter yoga teachers Carol Ann Shannon and Nicole Worden and some of the tools of the trade.

Laughter yoga teachers Carol Ann Shannon and Nicole Worden and some of the tools of the trade.

Exploring the serious business of laughing

Peninsula laughter yoga devotees say activity can be a drug-free alternative to antidepressants

Laughing is seriously good for you, Carol Ann Shannon and Nicole Worden say.

The pair are instructors in laughter yoga, a discipline developed by a doctor who discovered that deliberate, planned laughing can be a drug-free alternative to antidepressants.

Which is why Shannon, a South Surrey resident, owns two squeaky rubber chickens and a court jester’s hat and why Worden, a White Rock resident, happens to have a Viking helmet of the kind usually seen on old-time opera singers.

“Nature has given us the ability to laugh, and it’s fun,” says Shannon.

“So embrace it.”

Shannon describes herself as a “classic introvert,” someone who is not a natural clown.

Neither is Worden, who refers to herself as the “quiet one” in school, anything but a class cutup.

But then she pops the Viking helmet on her head and announces “I am the queen of everything” in a cartoon-character voice.

“That’s what it’s about,” Worden says. “Having fun and being in the moment. When you’re laughing you’re in the moment.”

They demonstrate a laughter yoga exercise that involves shaking hands and laughing as they do it. If the laughing seems a little artificial at first, that’s okay.

“You fake it till you make it,” Worden says.

“Laughter is contagious.”

And what starts as laughing for no reason becomes laughing for its own sake, Shannon explains.

“Sometimes, we laugh so hard that we cry,” Shannon says.

“It’s insane fun. You feel divine.”

Shannon says working as a laughter yoga instructor has given her an opportunity to explore her inner child and laugh.

Now, the self-described introvert will smile at strangers and say good morning.

Shannon and Worden lead the 20-member White Rock Laughter Yoga Club.

The discipline they teach was developed by a Mumbai family physician, Dr. Madan Kataria and his wife Madhuri Kataria, a yoga teacher.

The doctor felt he was writing too many prescriptions for antidepressants and thought there must be a better way of treating unhappy people.

In his book, Laugh For No Reason, Kataria talks about neuro-linguistic programming, a branch of science which believes the body can’t tell the difference between real and simulated laughter.

That led the Katarias to develop laughter yoga (Hasyayoga), an exercise routine which combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing (Pranayama).

Unlike other forms of yoga, not much physical flexibility is required, but a flexible attitude towards humour and laughter doesn’t hurt.

According to the Wikipedia entry on laughter yoga, the technique “allows adults to achieve sustained hearty laughter without involving cognitive thought. It bypasses the intellectual systems that normally act as a brake on natural laughter.”

Anyone, devotees say, can laugh without needing to rely on humour, jokes or comedy and reap the benefits.

They say 20 minutes of laughing is all it takes to reap physical benefits which can last for days.

From Kataria’s first five-member laughter yoga club in 1995 in Mumbai, the concept has spread to 65 countries and more than 8,000 laughter clubs.

For more information about the White Rock Laughter Yoga Club, visit the club website: or email:

For more information about laughter yoga and Dr. Kataria, visit


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