Sebastien Gendry was born and raised in a small French village and spent the first decade of his adult years in an inner state of confusion. âI conformed to society and what I thought was expected of me: my father had worked hard all of his life, so I too worked hard,â recalls Gendry. âI became a workaholic who thought I could handle the stresses of a successful business, but still I felt miserable. It was a time when I routinely worked 60 to 70 hours per week running my own company in England.â He felt a change within himself to escape his workaholic lifestyle. At the age of 31, Gendry decided that he may not die the richest man in the cemetery, but he could live more happily while on earth. He changed his lifestyle, job, country, and pursued activities close to his heart.
After leaving his hectic work life, Gendry still felt like something was missing until one day he read an article about the emerging movement of Indian Laughter Clubs.Â He found himself instantly became intrigued, âWhile I could not make any sense out of what appeared to be adults behaving like idiots in public spaces, I deeply resonated with the idea of âlaughing for no reason,ââ recalls Gendry. âMy heart knew that was something that my mind couldnât get.â Within three weeks, he boarded a plan to Mumbai, India, which was nearly 8,000 miles away.â
The practice immediately spoke to Gendry and his intense desire to understand the mind/body connection. âI was fascinated by a field of knowledge that I refer to as Folk Wisdom: what anybody can do, anytime, anywhere, at no or minimal cost to get better in body, mind and spirit,â explains Gendry. Laughter Yogaâs core premise is that your body can and knows how to laugh, regardless of what your mind has to say; Laughter Yoga is a body-mind approach to laughter versus the traditional mind-body strategies. The distinction is very important. Here you do not need to have a sense of humor, know jokes, or even be happy. Laughter Yoga invites you to masquerade being happy until it becomes real.
Gendry was the first American to become a certified Laughter Yoga teacher. He founded the Laughter Online University and the American School Of Laughter Yoga, LLC, where he now serves at Executive Director. Laughter Yoga classes last 30-60 minutes and is the only form of exercise that allows participants to laugh heartily, engaging the diapghram for an extended period of time, for no reason whatsoever. âIt is the purest form of laughter there is because it is unconditional. It puts you in touch with the very essence of who you are: loving, open, playful, and childlike,â he explains.Â Gendry believes this connection with oneself is what makes Laughter Yoga fun and why it is becoming so popular worldwide.Â He says the practice encourages us to play well with others, without judgment or competition.
There is still much unknown about the neurological connection to laughter. A recent scientific study revealed that the nucleus accumbens, one of the brainâs pleasure centers, triggers laughter. Some anecdotal and clinical evidence suggests that laughing makes you healthier by suppressing stress hormones and elevating immune system antibodies. âWhen Dr. Robert Provine studied over 1200 natural occurrences of laughter, he found that our bodies arenât responding to punch lines, theyâre responding to social connection,â states Gendry. âAnd even if we donât yet understand the neurological basis of the pleasure that laughing brings us, it makes sense that we should seek out the connectedness of infectious laughter. We are social animals, after all.â
Gendry travels over 70,000 miles every year to train hundreds of Laughter Yoga Professionals in North America, Europe and Australia. He has been a guest on many media outlets, even appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show. âLaughter Yoga combines laughter with yogic breathing exercises. It is a perfect way to laugh and get exercise at the same time. It approaches laughter as a body exercise so itâs easy to laugh even if youâre depressed or in a bad mood. Iâve tried it, and it works,â said Winfrey on the show.
Gendry says the ultimate goal of the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement is health, joy, and world peace through laughter. âBy practicing Laughter Yoga in groups, people leaving Laughter Yoga sessions go forth and interact with many people who are in turn affected to varying degrees by this powerful emotional state of joy. They in turn âinfectâ other people they come into contact withâŠ and so on,â theorizes Gendry. âWorld peace first starts inside every one of us. We donât laugh because we are happy, but we are happy because we laugh.â
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