Indian budget airline SpiceJet teamed up with the Isha Foundation for Yoga to mark the first International Day of Yoga on Sunday (21 June).
Instructors from the foundation trained flight attendants from SpiceJet to perform some simple exercises aimed at relaxing the mind and bodies of the passengers and to release stress from travelling on long-haul flights in increasingly cramped spaces.
Ajay Jasra, general manager of communications and corporate affairs at the airline, said that because of the lack of space and movement during flights, passengers often complain of physical distress, and the airline was trying to help relieve some of the stress.
"We have seen that while flying at a height of 35,000ft, there is a pressure of 10,000ft, and people generally have issues, travel-related issues like numb feet or they have an issue related to the breathlessness. So our yoga instructor today, we have partnered with Isha Yoga today and they have instructed us and our crew who are going to tell our passengers how to cope with these travel related issues," he said.
Approximately 50 Isha instructors and SpiceJet crew members performed 10-minute sessions on board selected long-haul flights across the network.
Most of the passengers on the flight were pleasantly surprised by the move and said such initiatives need to be continued. "This is a very nice concept. SpiceJet had shown it on television and they have started it today. I did it today and it felt very nice," said Ramesh Kumar Singh, a passenger on the flight.
Rubal, another passenger, gave a thumbs up to the in-flight yoga. "Actually when you are up in the sky, like flying, your body gets very heavy and your ears get blocked, so when doing yoga you feel very relaxed when you're doing that," he said.
Airline officials said they hoped to do more such classes during the oncoming monsoon season, when the seat load is relatively low and more instructors can be accommodated on flights.
The initiative follows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to make the first Yoga Day a big success. Earlier in the day, Modi led tens of thousands of people in a yoga session in the centre of New Delhi to showcase the country's signature cultural export, which has prompted criticism of fomenting social divisions at home.
Around 170 countries, including the United States and France, are expected to join in mass yoga gatherings for the celebration.