LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – An unusual fitness craze called Laughter Yoga is sweeping the nation, and you can take part in the Capital Region.

Yes, it is yoga, but forget the difficult positions and even the yoga mat. All you need is a sense of humor.

At the Hindu Cultural Center in Loudonville, a group of women are cracking up, but there are no jokes or punch lines. In fact, there’s no reason for laughing at all.

“The mind does not know that we’re faking it,” Laughter Yoga instructor Rani Gandham said. “It thinks we’re happy and joyful.”

Gandham said faking laughter is all in the name of health.

“You’re more focused, you carry out your day-to-day activities better, and our immune system is better,” she said. “We have better energy throughout the day.”

Her claims are backed by science. Deep laughter pumps five times more oxygen into the blood than normal breathing does, which helps fight heart disease. Laughter also decreases stress hormones and boosts endorphins.

“I feel great,” Gandham said. “I feel really good. Just like a long day at work, you start doing this, and you just get energized again.”

So why not go to a comedy club or just watch a funny movie?

“Because it’s not enough,” Gandham said. “It needs to be extended, sustained laughter for at least 15 minutes.”

Laughter Yoga was first developed by a doctor in India, but it has made its way to Loudonville’s Hindu Cultural Center.

A class begins with clapping and a rhythmic chant. Then scenarios are offered such as laughing at a cell phone bill, which triggers full blown laughter. It’s then followed by relaxation and meditation.

After soaking it all in, first timer Kate Hamlin is now a believer.

“At first I felt a little silly and a little goofy and a little embarrassed,” she sad. “But as soon as I got the energy from everyone else and started just to get into it, it felt absolutely wonderful.”

Swatantra Mitta, a pediatrician, is now inspired to do Laughter Yoga with her patients.

“Everybody will relax,” she said. “Otherwise, when we go into doctor’s offices, we are all tense and our blood pressure is going up.”

Hamlin, a former teacher, said it should be practiced in schools.

“We push kids very, very hard in the classroom these days,” she said.

From the corporate world to prisons, Gandham said Laughter Yoga is taking off and anyone can do it.

“It’s really such a simple thing for all of us that we could do it anywhere to reduce our stress, improve our immunity, and have better health benefits,” she said.

To reap all the benefits, you have to laugh for 15 minutes straight three times a week. You can do it with your family or by yourself in the mirror, but if that’s too much, then even forcing a smile when you’re feeling down or stressed, can help lift your spirits.