A swami leads an Integral Yogahatha course at the Satchidananda Ashram in Yogaville. Credit: Joellepearson / Creative Commons
It wasn’t his biggest feat by miles: Rakesh Sharma is a decorated military man, and he spent years climbing the ranks in his native Indian Air Force to become a squadron leader and wing commander. Later, he would be selected to be an astronaut — the first and only Indian man to have ever traveled to space. And in an attempt to combat space sickness, an ailment that can result in nausea, disorientation, and feelings of disembodiment from their own limbs, Sharma practiced yoga.
The problem is, there are no immediately available pictures of this feat, nor was it a widely celebrated occasion. During his nearly eight-day stay aboard the Soviet Union’s Salyut 7 station in 1984, Sharma performed dozens of experiments, including his own of three yoga exercises a few times a day for five days. In an attempt to investigate how flying to space affects the body, the 35-year-old would practice for upwards of an hour, according to the New York Times. And his Soviet cosmonauts, ship commander Yury Malyshev, 42, and engineer Gennadi Strekalov, 43, also joined in on the action.
Rakesh Sharma, space yogi.
But the data was never compared, Sharma told the Times of India. “It would be good if the next Indian cosmonaut continues zero gravity yoga practice, so that we can obtain more data,” he concluded. Sadly, no Indian astronaut has yet followed in his boot steps, which makes our Instagram hearts yearn for a clip — even a small square indication of what yoga looks like in weightlessness. Even a Google search is less than fruitful.
Perhaps even more intriguing is the time of when this was all happening. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Soviet Intercosmos space program formed a joint program, and a highly political one at that, considering it was the height of the Cold War. The Soviets even launched first India’s first satellite Aryabhata-1 and Bhaskara-1 from the remote Baikonur cosmodrome (now Kazakhstan). Though cooperation weakened when the Soviet Union dissolved, the Indian and Russian alliance remains healthy.
Upon his return, Sharma was welcomed as a celebrity back home, completing tours and lectures and all sorts of interviews, he told the Hindu. Sharma wants the next Indian cosmonaut to continue the tradition in space — maybe this time with results — and so do our fascinated social media hearts.