ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A group of adults pretend they are characters in "Pirates of the Caribbean," slashing away at their troubles and chuckling with each playful gesture.
"You're really getting in touch with your inner child," said Bobbi White, a laughter educator for the Laughter Club of Albuquerque.
The sword-slashing exercise is one of many White uses during her free sessions to provide people with cathartic release from everyday struggles and stresses.
It's called Laughter Yoga, and it's growing at laughter clubs worldwide. In fact, there are more than 5,000 of the clubs in more than 50 countries, according to the Dr. Kataria School of Laughter Yoga Web site.
White said she first heard of Kataria in 1994 when she read the book "Laugh for No Reason," co-written by Kataria and his wife, Madhuri. She was so inspired, she said, that she became a laughter educator.
"I read the book, and I instantly felt this would be something I would want to get involved with when I retired," she said. "I am a very serious person and I need laughter in my life."
White became a certified laughter educator at a weeklong workshop.
Since White began teaching in June, she said she has helped about 100 people laugh freely.
On this day, a group of about six people participate in a session at a local church. Many said laughter provides them a chance to act silly in a world where they're taught to always be serious.
Kathy Nunn, a participant in the Laughter Club, said she needed an opportunity to let loose, but she didn't want to get too crazy.
"I was wondering how hokey it would be. And once wens, former editor of the Saturday Review, had a disease of the tissue diagnosed. He bought several comedic videos to make himself laugh. She said he laughed his way out of a crippling disease.
In today's world, people need to have that hope and positive outlook, White said.
For Roseann Cimino, laughter is the best form of stress relief she's ever had.
"I feel laughter is something we need in this time we're living in, with the war in Iraq," she said.
With all the bad things happening in the world, White said, everyone needs to laugh it all away once in a while.
"I think life may be difficult and we don't laugh enough," she said. "I like bringing joy into people's lives."