From Mundane to Magic – Hem Singh

I was born with an increased risk of allergic diseases, asthma being one of them. I was told it was purely hereditary and thus complete riddance was never thought of as an option. Coming from an army background, maintaining a disciplined lifestyle was deeply ingrained in us. So despite my constant cold and flu, with the help of medicines and regular check-ups, I continued to focus on my studies and career. I kept my inhaler hidden in the bag, worried if my weakness would be mocked at. I was always on medications and my weak health worried my parents.

Two almost near-death experiences were the turning points in my life. It was during my engineering days. At one instance I had to be rushed to the hospital at midnight for severe stomach pain. The cause of the attack is still unclear but it took a few antibiotics to get me back on track. The relief was short lived. A year later a severe asthma attack sent me back to the hospital. With a new prescription and regular oxygen inhalations in the evenings, I managed my attendance and college exams.

How I found my calling

Though I was interested in body-weight workouts, my health condition did not allow me to maintain a strict regime or routine.  Over the years, there was certainly a kind of build-up in my frustration, fears and feeling of helplessness and I couldn’t run from these emotions anymore. I decided to face them and put an end to them. I realised that I can’t take my life for granted anymore. Hereditary or not, I have to defeat my illness. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in hospitals.

Today, I practice and also teach Yoga and it has been more than a year since I am off medications and  free from asthma and flu attacks.  This is my journey as a Yogi, from fear to faith, from illness to fitness and from ignorance to compassion and awareness. Yoga has shown me the way to achieve holistic fitness.

It is all there already inside you

Yoga, as we know is a union of body, mind and soul. It is way to know yourself, overcome fears and limitations, and understand the purpose of your life. To me, it is certainly divine and magical in many ways as it opens up a whole new world of possibilities that you didn’t know existed.

I often tell my friends and students, Yoga is like that honey in the bottle. You have to open the lid and taste it just once and then you will always desire for more. We just have to shatter the glass of doubts and taste it once. The sweetness of Yoga will do the rest.

Trust the process fully

I started with basic Hatha yoga postures and practiced Pranayama (breathing exercises) like Kapalbhati and Bhastrika. In less than a month of regular daily practice, I noticed positive changes. I wasn’t down with cold every alternate day. I felt healthier, physically and mentally and I knew that it is through Yoga I can find a permanent solution for my chronic illness.

I then included Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) in my practice and even now, I practice at least 12 rounds whenever I can before moving onto to other postures. If done with breath awareness, the practice of Surya Namaskar alone can help one transform body and mind.

Hem Singh Rathore doing Yoga

As my practice and health improved, so did my confidence and passion. I referred and followed Sivananda Yoga center chart, practiced sequences from Bikram Yoga and a few other yoga styles. Another five months down the line, I was practicing yoga regularly every day, at times for 4 hours in the mornings. My practice has made my body and mind capable of trying various advanced postures I can practice now and I am pleased to say that it has been a year and a half since I have taken any medicine.

I realised that yoga is made for me, in fact it is made for all of us. There is no restriction on anyone if they practice mindfully. We are all originally spiritual beings and Yoga helps us connect with our roots and guides us.

I feel fortunate that I made the right choice at the right time and chose to start my self-practice without worrying about falling several times and going wrong. I believe we have to trust the process fully. It is all there already. Yoga is there, inside each one of us. We just have to trust ourselves and proceed with dedication and devotion.

I gave up non-veg just 6 months after my practice. This decision also came from within and it came suddenly. Yoga helped me ask questions to myself, made me more aware of my choices and opened my heart and mind. On quitting non-veg and switching to a vegetarian diet, I felt a sense of satisfaction and peace. This is how yoga can transform you in many beautiful ways. I did my research before making the switch and figured that I didn’t have to eat meat to be gain strength, for flexibility, or to boost immune system. I felt that I couldn’t advance spiritually if I did not practice purity, devotion, compassion and love for myself and all other beings. Yoga demands small things from you and gives you back your real life. So I trusted the process again.

Feeling Blessed

Those of you who follow me on Instagram would have noticed that I recently added bar workouts to my fitness routine too. This has helped me gain more strength and I continue to follow a healthy vegetarian diet. Bruce lee who was a pure vegetarian is one of my inspirations. There are many people in strength-training who are vegetarians. My perception has also changed. It is purely out of compassion and awareness that I do not feel the need to eat non-veg and I am happy with my choices. This yoga journey never ceases to surprise one!

Bar workouts for core stretches

As a yogi, I would like to share the following tips for a joyful practice and lifestyle –

Practice consciously. Understand your body and don’t over-exert. Just try to be fully present on the mat during your practice.

Understand and know that Yoga is not about turning upside down and showing off. It has methods that can change your life entirely. It will uplift you and make you feel beautiful. Yoga has much more to offer you than just physical transformation. Try to follow yama and niyama (first two limbs of yoga). Let the process transform you. Be ready to feel the bliss.

Read Srimad Bhagvad Gita, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika for a deeper understanding and keep practicing pranayama and asanas.

Practice for just 2 months and let me know your experience. I am not a teacher or philosopher. I am just a regular guy who once wished for things to be different and kept trying.  And today I believe things can be different if we really want them to be. So just dive into the waters of Yoga. You will float automatically.

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