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.
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.
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 that I practice now and I am pleased to say that it has been 3 beautiful years since I have taken any medicine.
Yoga is for everyone
I realized 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.
Today, I practice and also teach Yoga and it has been a couple of years since I had any 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.
“Yoga does not ask you to be more than you are. But it does ask you to be all that you are.” Bryan Kest
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.
The answers are deep inside you
Your body is designed in such a way that it doesn’t need much rest. Stagnation means death for both the body and mind. The body is meant to move, to flow and to constantly change. Yoga can help you train your body and mind to change for the better.
As explained in Patanjali Yoga Sutras, it all starts from the body. I would highly recommend that as Yogis we must put in efforts to understand and implement the eight limbs of Yoga in our daily life.
Once you train the body to embrace the changes and not resist them, slowly the process also brings more clarity in our thoughts and the mind becomes more willing to accept the reality. A regular practice helps create a conscious connection between the mind, body, and breath, which helps awaken inner wisdom and allows you to see things with more clarity.
For example, if we talk about basic health of our joints, muscles, and overall flexibility of the body, you will agree that there are some natural movements that your spine can do in day to day life. Remember how flexible you were as a kid? Front & backbends, sideway stretches, twisting to the left and right – are all basic movements that we could perform with ease in childhood.
Why not now? Are we using the body to do its day to day task? When even the simplest of motion is ignored, how can we expect the body to cooperate and stay healthy? We may hit the gym and set high fitness goals … but it really doesn’t have to be this complicated and difficult.
“Wherever the mind wanders, restless and diffuse in its search for satisfaction without, lead it within; train it to rest in the Self.” Bhagavad Gita
The point I want to make here is that the practice of Yoga helps us wake up to reality. I have had several young students in my Yoga classes who have complaints about lower back pain, stiffness around neck and, shoulders, weight issues etc. And these problems are very common these days.
We have lost the way to ourselves. We are absolutely disconnected with our breath and in turn, remain disconnected with nature. All we see is what lies on the surface, and we don’t really care about “what lies within”. Through the practice of Yoga, we begin to understand that all world is just a reflection of your own being.
Trust the process fully
I understand that as a beginner, you may feel the need to have a teacher who can guide you and motivate you. Doubts and fears like ‘What if I am doing it wrong?’ or ‘Which style should I practice?’ may stop you from trying. But do you really think that without a teacher, you cant proceed with anything? Think about it. What about the times or circumstances when you had trusted your intuition?
Yes, you had done it and Yes! You can absolutely do it with Yoga too. In fact the practice of Yoga will help you strengthen your intuition. So just start from basics and do it with proper awareness, and show some affection towards your practice.
“Negative energies can’t touch you if you are in a state of meditativeness.’ Sadhguru
I have come across many people who started their Yoga practice on their own. All they needed was simple motivation or basic guidance over a call or messages. Reading online articles, yoga blogs or following Yogis online on Instagram or watching their Youtube tutorials … are all great ways to find some daily Yoga inspiration. I too have started taking online classes and people are finding it rather helpful. I guess the biggest advantage is that you can practice at a time that is best suited to you and also choose from a variety of instructors and styles, learn and unlearn and settle for something that is best for you. A teacher of course is important and can just be a mediator for some time until you develop the discipline and commitment for daily practice and constant growth.
Those of you who follow me on Instagram would have noticed that I recently added strength/endurance to my fitness routine too. This has helped me gain more strength and I continue to follow a healthy vegetarian diet. 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!
As a Yoga practitioner, 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 than just physical transformation. Try to follow Yama and Niyama (first two limbs of Yoga). Let the process transform you. Be open and ready to feel the bliss.
- Read books on Yoga like Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika for a deeper understanding. Practice Pranayama and Asana to know the roots of Yoga.
- Here are some videos and channels that I follow for inspiration: videos by Swami Chinmayananda on Gita and other texts on Yoga philosophy, talks by Sadhguru on Yoga and Yogic lifestyle, videos by Mystic Om Swami and a few other profound Yogis who inspire me. I am not saying that you have to follow all of them, but listening and reflecting on these discourses will help you grasp & understand the history and philosophy of this supreme knowledge from ancient India.
- You can follow me on Instagram where I have started putting tutorials too. All are for beginners and I am sure it will help you build a strong foundation for your practice.
- Practice for just 2 months and let me know your experience. I will refrain from calling myself 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.
Hem Singh, Hyderabad
Yoga teacher, singer, writer.