I tried ‘laughter yoga’ and it was the weirdest experience of my life

Supposedly Hasyayoga improves your health and mood. I just thought it was a bit cringe

This is it, the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced.

Naturally the idea to go spawned out of total and complete boredom. I’d seen them advertised online – workshops which practiced group “laughter yoga” or Hasyayoga. The bizarre exercise, which is often practiced in open parks, involves gathering in groups and forcing yourself to laugh. After a while, the forced laughter (which goes on for a long time) becomes natural and is supposedly really good for you.

Supposedly the human brain can’t discern the difference between real and fake laughter, and so you can reap the benefits either way. The practice improves your mental health, mood and even cardiovascular system – supposedly.

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I actually almost forgot to go, but was luckily (?) reminded on the same day by a cheerful email from the venue reception team. I’ve been to beginner’s meditation and yoga workshops, so I’m not unfamiliar with New Age hippy relaxation methods, and actually find some of them pretty helpful and interesting. In my defence, I thought this would be more of the same – oh how far I was from the truth.

Apparently laughter helps with pain relief, can boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, stabilises blood sugar and just generally makes you feel good. It’s also meant to be really good for your ab muscles and can work like an aerobic exercise, allegedly one minute of laughter equates to 10 minutes of jogging, which would burn roughly 97 calories. Not much, but better than nothing.

So theoretically, I should have felt great. It’s just that while being surrounded by a group of people is meant to induce contagious laughter, all it made me feel was awkward. Being one of only three people there who were under twenty-five didn’t help, as the majority of the group was made up of adults ranging from late thirties upwards. The team leader was a peppy young mother, and she was accompanied by an assistant who seemed to have absolutely no shame in completely humiliating herself for the sake of easing us into the various laughter exercises.

We began by clapping our hands while chanting sounds of ‘hee hee ha ha ha ho ho ho’, which in itself was an odd introduction. We’d later punctuate each exercise with this strange chant, as if part of some mysterious ritual to the Gods of laughter. Nonetheless, I wasn’t convinced.

The aforementioned exercises consisted of things like, pretending you messed something up and walking around pointing at yourself laughing, pretending your pockets are empty and you have no money and laughing about it, or pretending to be an animal and, you’ve guessed it, laughing.

This lead to me awkwardly meowing to myself quietly in a corner while complete strangers were walking around me clucking and barking at each other, and just generally embracing their new animal personas. Was it me? Was I completely missing the point? It felt more like an acting workshop than any kind of alternative wellness therapy, and instead of feeling liberated, I felt foolish. I can understand how some people might find it fun and freeing, but it seemed crazy to me.

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Forcing something like laughter felt wrong and made me want to cringe. The only point at which any of it felt even mildly natural was when someone did something so stupid I couldn’t help but giggle, or at the end, when we had to lie around in silence. Inevitably, people ended up laughing and then it did start to feel a little infectious, like when someone farted in a silent classroom in primary school and everyone had to try and stifle their amusement.

Whether or not it actually works or does anything positive, it was definitely one of the more interesting ways I can say I’ve spent my evenings, and opened my eyes to how odd people are. I actually admire how much the people in the group really didn’t seem to give a crap about how ridiculous they looked. If it taught me anything, maybe it was to just live in the moment and go along with the weird and wonderful. And anyway, I certainly didn’t come out of it in a bad mood, did I?

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