Jeetendra Jain, an Isha volunteer, explains how a bad wheelchair experience led to over 10,000 SpiceJet passengers getting a taste of yoga on International Yoga Day.

My father, 80 years old, had a sudden burst of inspiration in June this year. He decided to go to the Isha Yoga Centre at Coimbatore and receive the Linga Bhairavi Yantra with Sadhguru’s blessings.

Wheelchair karma

For travelling the Hyderabad-Coimbatore distance, flying seemed the best option for taking my parents who would both need a wheelchair. So my wife Shilpa and I meticulously planned for their travel by air. We chose to fly SpiceJet to Coimbatore. All was going well till we realized that taking my father on the wheelchair through the various transit points was not so easy. In spite of an enthusiastic and helpful SpiceJet crew, there were lots of hiccups in getting my father onto the flight. This being my first wheelchair experience at an airport, I was very annoyed with the way this happened.

The midnight yantra ceremony with Sadhguru was exuberant – a midnight of divine ecstasy. After heartwarming support at the ashram, we left to drop our parents back in Hyderabad before heading to our home in Mumbai. With a different airline on the return journey, our experience was much smoother. This rankled me even more about the unfortunate experience with SpiceJet. I was waiting to get to my desktop in Mumbai to dash off some irate emails.

Helpline to Grace

Back in Mumbai, I rattled off a grieving mail to Sanjiv Kapoor, the CEO of SpiceJet. I wanted to make sure that in future, another such passenger did not go through a challenge on a wheelchair like my father did. For two days there was no response. I had given up. Then I got a call of empathy from Suman Kaul, the Customer Service Manager at SpiceJet apologizing for the experience. I was glad they wanted to correct this. At the end of the call, I could not resist asking Suman if there is something that Isha Foundation could do with SpiceJet for the upcoming International Day of Yoga on June 21. Suman was open and I wrote to her and Sanjiv about this opportunity.

High on Yoga

 
The next day I got a call from Ajay Jasra, General Manager Corporate Affairs at SpiceJet. An excited Ajay wanted to know if we could have passengers taught yoga – not on ground but on the flights at 35,000 feet!

The team at Isha Foundation and many of us debated and discussed this and finally we said – let’s do it! With just a week left to pull this off, we got together a small band of volunteers to work with the SpiceJet team. We shortlisted flights, selected Isha instructors in each city, got the script for the in-flight yoga ready, put a dress code in action and got the marketing designs in motion.

Flight crew at your stations please

 
14 flights on June 21 would have 20 Isha instructors demonstrating “Upa-Yoga” to seated passengers (remember aviation rules had to be kept in mind) for about 10 minutes. The SpiceJet Marketing team dubbed this offering “High on Yoga @ 35,000 feet”.

It was a mad scramble amongst about 10 of us from SpiceJet and Isha on a tireless, overworked Whatsapp group called “High on Yoga”. Training, volunteer selection, dress codes for instructors, printing marketing collateral, getting the yoga DVD organized, selecting long-haul flights, doing dry runs of the script to fit the 10-minute window and getting the media to know about this. The speed and frenzy was hard to believe.

Then, with just 3 days left, we began to wonder, what could we do on ground with passengers at the airport?

“Namaskar” – the simplest form of Yoga

 
Sadhguru’s wonderful and simple offering of “Namaskar Yoga” hit the right chord. We decide we would have about a dozen Isha volunteers at ten selected airports in the country greeting departure passengers with a simple “Namaskar”. An attractive leaflet explaining the “Namaskar” yoga posture would be offered to them.

Take-off

 
Twenty eager and enthusiastic Isha instructors got on board SpiceJet flights from Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata after having given the aircrew a quick training session on ground. Meanwhile, at 6am, at each of those ten airports, joyful Isha volunteers graciously welcomed check-in passengers with “Namaskar”. They offered them a leaflet about this simple yet profound yoga posture that India has bequeathed to the world.

Over 3000 passengers on board those flights and about 10,000 passengers at the airports were “touched” by yoga on the first International Day of Yoga thanks to the energy, commitment, dedication and the intense involvement of the team.

Amidst the ecstasy and the grandeur of the International Day of Yoga, many forgot that June 21st is also “Father’s Day”! I cannot think of a more wonderful gift for my father than the lives of so many passengers being touched by Isha Yoga.

I bow down in gratitude to that (bad) wheelchair.

And… thank you Dad.