7 rules to follow the music within: Learnings from the first Indian Bikini Bodybuilder

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If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

~Henry David Thoreau

Meet the first bikini bodybuilder from India, who followed the music within.

Bold, beautiful.

And a rebel.

Navreet Josan

A bikini bodybuilder and a makeup artist. A small-town Jalandhar girl, she went on to participate in international bikini bodybuilding competitions, and won many medals.

Rule no. 1: Don’t give a fuck to fitting in the society.

I’ve heard it within myself. I’m sure you’ve heard it too. That little whisper in your head that says, “Do what you want to do. Don’t care about what others say. It’s okay if it’s different, if I’m different. Don’t give a fuck to what others think.” But the next moment, you ignore that whisper and come back to reality, “But what will everyone say? How will I tell this to my parents? Let’s be real and do what everyone else is doing.”

Though there is one other thing I’ve observed. Those who listen to the music within, and don’t give a fuck to fitting in the society, get all the respect from the same society. In Navreet’s words:

“I don’t fit in the society that much. I don’t fit into what people say is right and wrong. I live life on my own terms. I don’t think I do wrong or hurt anybody. So yeah, I’m okay with that.”

Within a short span of 4 years, the fan following of Navreet reached from 500 to more than 50k+ followers.

She won multiple medals in bikini bodybuilding in international competitions. To name a few- two Golds in NPC New York Grand Prix (2015), Silver in NPC Eastern USA Championship (2015), Silver and Bronze in NPC Fort Lauderdale Cup Florida (2015), Silver in NPC Fort Lauderdale Cup Florida (2014).

Plus, she is a source of inspiration to many.

Rule no. 2: Challenge the opposition

That music within, is too easy to ignore, yet too hard to focus, and even harder to follow. Your well-intentioned family and friends can’t seem to go along with it because they think in your good faith. All they want for you is you to live your best (and easy) life. So, they will tell you to take the safe and non-risky route. In the words of Navreet:

“Initially, people were like, why do you have to do this, why do you have to put yourself through this, why are you going crazy, why are you doing this to yourself? Later, it was really just them adjusting to the changes that I made in my life. So I think a lot of people don’t understand why you are doing, what you are doing which causes a lot of problems. They don’t understand where you are coming from and why you are doing it. They just feel that you are being anti-social, whereas for us its more about priorities. At some point, I want to go out, I want to enjoy with my friends. It’s not that I don’t eat pizza. Its more about balance. I think that’s the main challenge. The choices that I’ve made in my life with regards to fitness, my eating habits, gym- just having my friends and family adjust to that is slightly challenging. That was the main challenge I faced.”

Rule no. 3: Discover your passion

Yet if you ignore that music, life is anything but easy on you. You feel disconnected from yourself, going through life like a zombie. You put on a happy face outside, but suffer in silence inside. And you go through life without ever exploring yourself, without ever knowing what you could be.

“I see people go through lives without ever discovering their passion, and what they are capable of. I see a lot of people are not really pushing themselves to the point where they explore that side, and see how strong they really are. I’d like everyone to do something. It doesn’t have to be pushing weights, but it can be anything that they enjoy doing. Just taking up some sort of physical activity, and take one hour everyday. Something that they like doing, or working towards a goal that they like. And women- women don’t really explore the amount of strength they actually have, the amount of potential. That is kind of sad. Because a lot of women I see, they don’t take any sort of physical activity, they don’t workout, never go to gym, and they never get to understand what their body is capable of.”

Whatever that voice whispers in your head, just put in some time to act on that music. Don’t dance to the same music which everyone else is dancing to. If we all danced to the same music, there would have been no one who differentiated himself, and all of us would be same. Navreet did things differently, even though it meant not just going against the traditional routes to success, but the things which were inconsistent with culture as well. And she constantly set herself challenging goals to achieve this.

Rule no. 4: Set challenging goals

“I think what really pushed me to keep focusing on my goals was that I really set myself a goal that was a little scary, honestly. So molding the body in the US, stepping on stage in a bikini; there are women who do this so much more than I’ve ever done, who take competitions throughout the year, they have so much more knowledge, information. So it was a very scary goal to have, and when you set a goal like that, which is out of your comfort zone, that’s when… it makes you jump out of bed every morning, get to the gym and put in the work. So that’s what its all about. I constantly set myself challenging goals. I was at a point like I told you, I wanted, like I really wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to do something a little bit out of my comfort zone and that’s when it seemed like a perfect thing to do, and its not just body, it’s a whole lot of presentation, like your hair, your makeup, the bikini, the way you pose. There is so much that goes into presenting that body on stage. It itself was a very challenging task which motivated me throughout.”

She built a body that defies conventional bodybuilding practice. The kind of body that she wanted to build- an aesthetically-pleasing, curvy, full, toned, well-rounded, strong upper and athletic body came through bikini category. Nobody from India had done it so far on an international platform abroad. She is in love with that athletic-looking model body, and does what her common sense tells her. She may have been preached otherwise, but she believes in following her music. She marches to her own beat without having to explain or defend anything.

Image courtesy: Photographed by Ajay Singh

Rule no. 5: Follow your purpose quietly

You don’t have to tell everyone everything.

“Honestly, all these things, cannot be told to your parents. Because of the point that they are different. If I explain all of this to them, it’s going to hurt them. They are very supportive of my fitness career. But in terms of how I express myself, what I want to do and everything, it’s not practical for me to involve them in everything. My parents are like, they want me to get married, that’s there, but they never really want to take my rights away from me. They don’t really see it as something bad, like negative. I eat the healthiest food, I take care of my body, I stay happy, I stay positive, I work hard, why would they want to take that away from me?”

If you feel that burning desire to break free, from rules and traditions, to break from someone who doesn’t love you back, to break from that job that sucks life out of you, then do it! There is no one stopping you from doing what you want to do, but you. You don’t have to fit in expectations of anyone around you, just yourself. Navreet felt the fire in her belly to push herself, to get better everyday, to do something great. She wanted to achieve all she can, be it the best of her artistic skills, or be it the best of her body.

Rule no. 6: Keep going even when you don’t feel like going

However, this hasn’t been an easy road. Everything comes with its share of ups and downs. At any point of time, our life is not perfect, there is always something we want to change for better. And the best way to deal with those times is probably to just go through them.

“I have bad days too, and then I just go through them. I mean, there will be days when I go to the gym and I don’t feel like working out, and days when I’m not in a mood to work. And I’m not able to give my 100% which is fine. I think my strength lies in the fact that I don’t stay in those moments for a long period of time. I try and find a solution to them and then move on. Because I feel like otherwise I’m wasting my time. If we look at things that did not go well, things affect you emotionally. If you are not feeling happy, obviously, you are not going to have a great workout. But then it definitely helps. When you go, you feel better.”

Rule no. 7: People will pull you down, but you got to stand your ground

In following your inner drumbeat, you will earn a lot of respect. As said earlier, society tries you to conform, but then it most revere those who do not. Though you’ll have to incur the wrath of those who lack the audacity of marching to their own music. As Navreet has to, in Instagram comments.

“Almost 90% of the comments that I get are very positive. I think it’s also got to do with the kind of audience that I keep on my social media, but there are always people who want to pull you down, who always want to say something negative. It’s out in the open and people would say something. So I’m always ready for it. I understand the fact that people only do that when they see what they don’t have. For example, if there is a guy or a girl, who would comment on my body, the underlying cause is a lot of pain they experience by knowing they have the kind of potential to have that kind of body too, but don’t do anything about it, and that feeling, they express by pulling other people down. This is how I read into things like that, and I only use it to fuel my motivation. Honestly, it used to affect me earlier, but not anymore, because I understand the psychology.”

Navreet Josan
Navreet Josan

Listening to the music makes you love what you do

Though if you listen to the music you feel, and respect it, you’ll connect to the true you. And would feel an unconditional love towards life and what you do.  

“It’s something that, I really enjoy working on that body. For some people, this is the goal. For me, this is something that I love doing anyway. I want to keep improving my body, you know, never ending. I still see areas that I want to improve and work upon, and that just makes me put on the work. It’s not just about the competition, you set yourself up for once a year; it’s really about improving, working every single day, which all adds up in the end.”

You can find more of Navreet on Instagram