Yoga Teacher, Entrepreneur & Laughter Scientist, Indy Rishi Singh

Indy is one of those rare people who completely lights up a room with his positivity. He and I met in India, with him being one of three lead teachers for Yoga4Change.

He instantly struck me as upbeat and very knowledgeable in the art and science of yoga. As we got to know each other, I began to get a clearer picture of why he is the way he is.

Indy (I call him Rishi) truly wants to make the world a happier place. He donates his time to help the homeless, has developed an app to bring more laughter your life, and built a business that promotes service, positive social change & giving back.

What book(s), audiobook(s) or podcast(s) do you find yourself recommending most often?

I simply love the book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a great comedic piece illuminating the problems with bureaucracy and hypocrisy. Then there’s The Way of the Superior Man and Path of the Masters. Both are quintessential in my own personal hero’s journey. I’m always listening to an array of scientific podcasts including the Hidden Brain, TED Radio Hour, and StarTalk. Here and there I’ll tune in to Joe Rogan’s podcast and I religiously follow Russell Brand and John Oliver. Instead of audiobooks, I recommend certain youtube videos that I feel do a good job at presenting knowledge and wisdom, not forcing it. One of them is Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds. Another is Cymatica.

What mental and/or physical training do you practice to keep your mind and body sharp?

Mentally, I start every day with several meditation practices. I refrain from looking at my phone, talking to anyone, or receiving any external stimuli. I think it’s critical these days that we start the day with some sort of grounding activity. After meditating, I practice yoga. My yoga practice is a mixture of hatha, vinyasa and kundalini. I like to think it’s like how Bruce Lee practiced martial arts. Finding a practice that elevates you is more important than prescribing to something that works for someone else. Often we look outside of ourselves instead of looking for our own truth. As I continue to travel and learn from teachers around the world, I add useful lessons to my personal practice. This is the art of self practice.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success?

I’ve been fortunate to fail in some incredible ways. That sounds odd, but it’s a truth that seems more important than anything we endure. The most powerful influencing failure was my not so graceful departure from the medical career. I spent over 7 years, undergraduate and medical school, pursuing an allopathic medical career. It took a severe chronic illness and the mismanagement of that illness for me to completely resign from my pursuit of a medical degree. I fell into a deep depression and was crashing when I came across Ayurveda. It changed my life, literally, overnight. All the unanswered questions in Western medicine found answers as I studied Ayurveda, meditation and yoga. I found a “cure” for my chronic illness, which is considered uncuttable by Western medicine. In fact, I know so many people who suffer from some form of chronic illness. Since then, I have dedicated my life to pursuing and sharing the knowledge and wisdom imbued in the annals of Ayurvedic research. My company, iLiving, is a beacon for the integration of Western technology with Eastern wisdom.

Does cannabis play a role in your life? Why?

Cannabis has played a very interesting role in my life. Growing up in a conservative home, I held a very negative stigma about cannabis. I thought it would obliterate my thinking ability. I played sports in high school and into college. I thought it would weaken me. I judged people who partook in cannabis and alcohol. After 3+ stressful years of premedical school, I finally tried cannabis with my cousins. The first few times I fell asleep from being so high. Then I noticed how it began to affect me in my everyday life. It wasn’t addictive, but it certainly slowed me down and relieved some of my anxiety. Nevertheless, I didn’t have anyone talking to me about using it mindfully. I continued partaking in it while in medical school and sometimes it would even help me with my studying. I would really get into subjects while I was high on cannabis.

Eventually, as I began a journey into Eastern medicine (Ayurveda) I started learning and coming across teachers and knowledge about cannabis. I found out that it’s a powerful tool that can be used in all kinds of capacities. It can be used topically and ingested. It has properties that stimulate creativity and also alleviate anxiety. I practiced mindful use and started finding colleagues and mentors who use cannabis as a tool in their careers to stimulate their creativity. Cannabis opened my perspective about other plant medicines from around the world. This is not a new thing, cannabis and plants have been important for human evolution for who knows how long. There are representations of plant medicines in art and religious creations from around the world, throughout human history.

At this point, I can make the hypothesis that a great deal of our modern way of living has been created under the influence of cannabis and other plant/fungi medicines. The ability to think outside the box and invent, create and articulate is amplified under the influence of these natural agents. I can even imagine ancient humans doing rituals and finding new ways to use tools and even creating wheels and other significant inventions under the influence.

You were once in Med School, on the path toward becoming a doctor. Why did you decide to change paths?

It wasn’t really my choice. I was very ill during my time studying medicine. I did a great job of hiding it from my peers. I was suffering from what is commonly referred to as Chrome’s Disease. It had rendered me frustrated and bitter. I was so disenfranchised with studying medicine as it was not even helping me with my health. All the specialists I saw told me I was “stuck” with this my whole life. I listened to them, they were my seniors. They studied longer than I had. I had to respect their “science” because this is what we are taught to do our whole lives.

Then something happened. I fell into a deep depression. I locked myself in my room. I gave up on medicine. I started popping oxycodon pills, drinking alcohol, and smoking pot. I blocked myself from my family, friends, and responsibilities. I was killing myself. I knew it. I didn’t care. I was frustrated that I had spent so much of my life pursuing something that couldn’t even help me. As anyone who suffers from any chronic illness can tell you, I didn’t want anyone to know. I would rather they make up things than to think that something was completely and forever wrong with me. I was killing myself, and I could feel myself losing my grip on reality.

That’s when my mom, a modern day saint, connected me to Ayurveda and to meditation. After a week practicing Ayurveda with guidance from an Ayurvedic practitioner, I noticed my health improving. At the same time, my mother connected me to a saint who was visiting from India. He taught me the mystical aspect of meditation. I practiced, and noticed the improvement of my willpower and my focus. Things began to improve in my life. I gave up on western medicine. I got a great job as a teacher. I was promoted in a couple of months. I began to study Ayurveda, first on my own, then I joined Vedika Global in Berkeley. I finished studies with them and continued to study until I met Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya with Dinacharya Institute. She showed me the great relationship that western medicine can have with Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a massive compendium of knowledge about health, wellbeing and evolution. I will be studying it for my whole life, and sharing whatever I can.

You’re a co-founder of iLiving. What is the mission of this business, and how do your services contribute to that mission?

iLiving is a mission, a think tank, an evolution of a new and conscious business. It is the integration of Eastern philosophies and Western technologies. We care about improving physical intelligence and emotional intelligence, simultaneously. iLiving is a brand that openly combines modalities from around the world to enhance wellbeing at every level of our society. iLiving is about paying attention to our inner journey and the environments we travel through. There are many wellness brands and companies – what separates iLiving is the emphasis on social change. iLiving promotes service and giving back.

We conduct private retreats. Some are day retreats and others are multiple day retreats. They are all based in some sort of community service/building and also include aspects of resetting the mind and body. We want to promote healthy habits, and retreats are the best way to establish this kind of positive change. Our retreats bring together incredible and unique facilitators who have trained in different modalities. We want to give people diversity. This is incredibly important because too many retreats force feed ONE ideology. iLiving is about sharing knowledge, not creating membership. My experience in medicine, psychotherapy and masterminding helps a great deal in guiding people towards their truths. I have a knack for inspiring and elevating those around me.

An example of the integration that iLiving promotes is a LAUGHTER ALARM CLOCK that is available for download on iTunes and Play Store. It is a laughter library where we hope you add your laughter to, and it is also an alarm clock so that people can find a better way to start the day. We have celebrity laughters on there, we encourage people to share laughter with their loved ones, and we hope that people use this app not just for mornings but to find laughter throughout the day if they have busy workdays or stressful circumstances.

Laughter Yoga and Sound Baths – how would you describe these to someone who has never heard of them? Why do you recommend people try them?

Laughter is becoming a very popular mechanism to research and practice. Scientists and medical professionals are learning about the incredible results of laughter. Laughter has positive implications for heart health, immune systems, hormones, and mental health. More than ever, we need to learn that laughter is a natural tool for us to take on challenges and issues in our lives. Laughter improves neuroplasticity of the brain. We think better if we laugh more. It’s a fact. Our blood flows better when we laugh. It’s a fact. Laughter Science is more of what I share in my workshops. I introduce laughter in a way that combines science and practice. I believe in the science of laughter so that I can share the art of laughter.

Sound baths are incredible. They are essentially the modern day version of Yoga Nidra, the yoga of sleep. They allow us to relax and take an hour or so to feel sound. My sound baths tend to focus on guiding individuals on a journey through their bodies and minds. After laughter, the sleep is much better. We release a great deal of melatonin when we laugh. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us experience the best and most rejuvenating sleep. In the modern age, it is becoming more and more important to relax, better. We have so much pressure to be aware all the time, it is resulting in innumerable chronic illnesses, ranging from mental to physical. Laughter and sound baths are the perfect and most simple solution. There are no negative side effects and you inevitably become connected to new people who are also on a similar journey as you.

You come across as a remarkably positive, optimistic human being. Have you always been this way? How do you maintain that disposition?

They often say, never judge a book by its cover. I am far from positive. My underlying disposition is to be skeptical and to observe the risk in all things. I am constantly analyzing, and I am truly grateful for the art of meditation and expression. They allow me to step out of this barrage of analysis.

That being said, I welcome modalities like laughter, sound baths, music therapy, art, tribes, kirtans, and community service. I welcome teachers and mentors who hold the mirror up to me. It’s the combination of these that produces an outward expression of positivity and optimism.

Also, Ayurveda plays a key role in my life. I am constantly using Ayurveda as a self analysis. When I am imbalanced, I seek the foods and relationships that will bring me back to balance. There is the inner world, within my body and mind, then there is the outer world, me and the communities and environments I play in. I notice that if I am negative and doubtful to the external world, there is rarely any progress. It is imperative that I promote reason and progress in external environments, and this is why I channel positivity and optimism. It is social art at its finest. Maybe I’ll write a book about it someday… or make a meme.

You’re one of the few people I know who’ve begun dabbling in virtual reality. How do you see VR affecting the Wellness space (generally), and the Yoga space (specifically) in the next 10 years?

I love this question. I’ve been dabbing and dabbling in virtual reality.

A recent project, an Astrology VR game, is a great example of what iLiving is about. The game starts off with a player logging their birthdate and birthplace. Then, in a VR environment, they learn about themselves in a gamified manner. They travel through constellations, ancient civilizations, and their own shadow side to become better human beings. We have integrated different psychological games to help individuals improve emotionally and physically. This is a revolutionary game, and users get to learn about ancient civilizations as they play.

Another amazing project we are working on in VR has to do with yoga and travel. This is still top secret so that’s all I can say about it. VR and AR (Augmented Reality) are going to take the world by storm in the next COUPLE of years. It’s like how the smart phone is now innocuous. As these become commonplace, we will see how much we can improve the ways people practice yoga asanas from afar. I also believe we will have better teachers too. Even wellness will improve as we will have more creative ways to share wellness modalities. Can you imagine learning about Ayurveda while traveling to meet teachers in their labs, caves, and temples around the world? What about learning and experiencing the way your hormones react to foods and environments, in real time? Or even better, what about having a notification system that lets you know when any of your “chakras” are out of alignment, and what you can do to get them back in balance? That’s what we will be developing at iLiving, and if we aren’t, someone will.

What’s one of your favorite stories from our Yoga4Change trip to India?

I’m going to cheat on this. I’m going to say that the whole trip was my favorite story. As a facilitator, my meditation was to hold space for everyone to experience the yoga of yoga. I really wanted EVERYONE, even the other teachers, to feel India and their own sense of being. I noticed everyone changed, at a fundamental level. Every person on the trip enhanced their perspectives. Every person from the trip is doing amazing things, following their dreams, putting to practice the philosophies of yoga, not just the asanas. Anyone can go on retreats and have fun experiences. The experience of Yoga4Change was more life-changing. It was a personal and group evolution. We not only made ourselves better, but we improved every village, city and place we went to in India. We forever changed the lives and aspirations of the orphans we met and played with in Varanasi. We laughed, we cried, we ate delicious food and we experienced pure joy.

On a personal level, I have to say that the experience at the Bodhi Tree was incredible. When my flute broke, I was devastated. How fitting that I had to learn the meditation of impermanence at the very place that Buddha practiced it 2,000 years before. I cried so much, letting go of something that had meant so much to me. At the same time, sitting under the same tree meditating, I was sprinkled with leaves and reminders from Buddha himself; nothing is permanent, appreciate all things as they come and as they go. I’ll never forget that experience. I felt the magic of that place, I listened to the mantras and sutras of Buddha spoken and recited in languages from around the world. I played with children and elders, I laughed and smiled with nuns and monks, I shared the experience with some of the most amazing people in the world who had come on this Yoga4Change journey.

Where do you want to see yourself in the next 5 years, and what steps are you taking to get there?

In 5 years I see myself heavily invested in politics and social entrepreneurship. I aim to fund and sponsor people who have ideas, inventions, and businesses that have positive impacts on society. I will be holding contests and hackathons.

I’m interested in sponsoring political candidates who are interested in their communities, the environment and social progress. There are so many people who deserve to represent us but lack the socioeconomic encouragement. I aim to change that.

I will continue to travel and promote service, community and mindful innovating. This will include improving education wherever I go. I will be sponsoring initiatives to improve the kinds of people who teach our children and adults. I will be backing schools that provide holistic education; the kinds of education that allows children to become global citizens and multi-potentialites. I will be pushing for schools around the world that introduce permaculture to locals so that they can sustain themselves, without outside corporate influence.

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