Harbir Singh - Barefoot Doctor
We're big believers in 'The Law of Attraction' - when we cultivate a positive outlook to life, we attract positive experiences and people into our life, and vice versa. Since becoming more health conscious (from what we eat, to our physical exercise) the Universe has presented us with new ideas and new people. One such person is Harbir Singh - an Osteopath to doctors, athletes and royalty. He shares his expertise in the world of Osteopathy and health & fitness on Instagram, with detailed posts on exercise techniques for the relief of bodily pains as well as fat loss.
Harbir's story of why he decided to become an Osteopath is absolutely inspiring to us, as his is commitment to improving the community's understanding of the importance of our physical wellbeing.
Tell us about Harbir Singh
I grew up in a poor single parent family. My father died of a sudden stroke at age 31 and my Mum tried her best to support my brother and I, both materially and emotionally. We grew up in Southall and had a particularly rough time in High School; muggings, fights and drugs were some of the things I was exposed to on a regular basis. Fortunately, things got better when I went to University.
I spent many of my formative years training in Thai boxing. I initially started the training so that I could learn to defend myself and stop getting bullied; but over time it developed into a passion for the sports, and for health and fitness. At university, I found out about a Sikhi camp and from there got my first exposure to the Sikh ethos and lifestyle - it was love at first experience. Since then I have been on a journey to try and become a better human being and have been joined on the journey by my Wife and two children.
How did Barefoot Docs come about, and what or who was the inspiration behind the name?
I'm an Osteopath. I remember a time when I didn't know what that meant and had to Google it. My introduction to Osteopathy was when my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. All of a sudden she was having surgeries, treatment and chemotherapy. All of these interventions took
their toll on her, and as a result she started to develop alot of aches and pains. We tried everything but the only option she was given was stronger pain relief medication; the medication made her more ill and she wasnt able to tolerate it.
It was at that point that someone said to me, "Why dont you take her to see an osteopath". So I booked her in for an appointment. My mum walked into the clinic room in pain, but over the course of her treatment, I could see that she was visibly better. When she walked out of the clinic, she had a smile on her face. This episode inspired me - how was it that someone could relieve Mum's symptoms with their hands, and with no drugs or surgery? At that point I resolved to change my degree and study Osteopathy.
The name 'Barefoot Docs' came about after another chance occurrence. At this point, I was qualified and practicing at the Whittington Hospital in North London. One day, I was sitting at work going through the bookshelf in our department and came across a book, 'The Barefoot Doctors Handbook'. Basically, there were 100,000 of community members in rural China who were trained to provide treatment using natural treatments. They were farmers by trade but would become Doctors to the villagers when needed. I loved the concept of serving one's community and providing natural treatments. As a result, I ended up adopting the term for myself, and I became 'The Barefoot Doctor'.
What challenges do you face on a day-to- day basis, and in your line of work?
The biggest challenge is myself. I feel like that is true for most of us. Our own self doubt, laziness or ego can get in the way of our success. For me, my success is defined by whether my patients get better and that, in some way, is down to how good I am as an Osteopath. I don't want to let anyone down who has trusted me with their health. This sense of responsibility and accountability is challenging, but it also acts as an impetus to strive for betterment.
If you had to, what would you get tattooed on your forehead?
'It will workout'.
There's always going to be challenges in life whether that's related to work, family life, or our own development. I try to remind myself that no matter how bad things get, it will all be OK in the end. I have this belief because no matter what has happened, it has always worked out in the end.
How do you stay motivated in life and work?
Having a background in training helps, as it teaches you about the importance of routine. They say, 'First you make your habits and then your habits make you.'
I try to have simple habits which I practice each day. These habits are instrumental to my business, health, family wellbeing. I am also goal-focused. I write my goals down each and every morning and create a list of tasks, and set one major goal for each day. This focus on action helps me to get lots done and I have a sense of achievement each day, as I know I am progressing towards my goals. Another strong influence on my motivation is my wife - I know she loves me and believes in me, and that gives me the strength and motivation to try and be a good husband/father/osteopath/business owner/person.
What makes you feel good?
Meditation, a hug from my son, pushing myself in training, being productive, learning something new, and having a positive interaction. Fortunately, theres hundreds of experiences in my life which make me feel good. I think it's a really good question, as unless we know what makes us feel good/happy, how can we be happy? These things may be small, but when you add them up and appreciate them, maybe being happy can become the overarching emotion we feel.
What’s been your greatest struggle (in your life or work), and how do you generally overcome negative emotions?
My greatest struggle in life has been overcoming my bad habits. Before I got into Sikhi, I had little idea about right or wrong. Growing up in the environment I was in, my teachers often said that I had the most potential they had seen and that I will either do something with it, or end up in prison. Since embracing Sikhi, I am trying to reflect on what my weaknesses are and I'm trying to monitor how well I can replace those behaviours with more positive ones. Self improvement is a constant battle, especially when you need alot of it...like I do!
How have your family and friends encouraged you to pursue what you are doing?
On the face of it, my family are not overly supportive of what I am doing. I work long hours and I am dedicated to my work. This sometimes comes at the sacrifice of time with the family and meeting social commitments. Nonetheless, my Mother and Wife are both incredibily loving and support me in whatever I chose to do...eventually!
What or who inspires you in life, and your line of work?
I am inspired by my teachers:
Dr Travel and Simons have been instrumental in developing my manual therapy skills.
Bhai Seva Singh taught me how to meditate.
Brian Tracy helped me with goal setting and numerous athletes have inspired to me exercise.
How do you stand out from others in your field?
I have a high level of contact with all of my patients. I contact 100 people each day (one of my habits) and find out how they are doing. I care about the people I meet and so keeping in touch with them helps me provide advice, guidance and motivation. I find this makes me different from everyone else out there, as I haven't met anyone else who does this. It also reassures my patients as they know I am there for them.
You are having a (plant-based!) dinner party – which three people would you invite, and why?
The Dalai Lama - talk about spirituality and virtues
Warren Buffet - talk about business and he seems really wise
Michael Jordan - one of the greatest athletes in history, to teach me about mindset
If you could only offer one piece of advice (medical or non-medical, or both!) to all your patients, what would you tell them?
Meditate. In thai boxing they say the body goes where the head goes; meaning control the head and you control your opponent.
In life, our world goes in the direction our mind goes, if our mind is in a good place, the body, emotions and our world will be good.
Tell us an interesting fact you would like to share about yourself!
I can speak hindi as my mum used to watch a lot of hindi films, and so I ended up picking it up.