InnovaSpace Founder, CEO & Scientific Director
The ancient practice of yoga has its roots deep in the ancestral traditions of India. The word comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which has countless meanings, such as controlling, uniting, concentrating, or integrating. Yoga is seen as a way of harmonising the body and mind, through meditation, breathing techniques and postural exercises.
Despite its influence on various cultures over time, and it being practiced on a daily basis all over the world, I have to confess that I knew very little about this centuries-old practice, that is, until I was invited by Guerilla Science to take part in their Space Yoga class at the Brighton Yoga Festival, held on the weekend of 14th-15th July this year, at the Sussex County Cricket Ground in Brighton & Hove, neighbouring towns on the English south coast.
Rather luckily, my invite did not involve me personally having to perform breathing exercises or adopt certain body positions, as my hosts may have been a little disappointed! It was, however, to talk about the changes undergone by astronauts when they spend time in microgravity, as yoga therapy has been contemplated and researched as a possible complementary activity that could benefit astronaut health and emotional wellbeing, as discussed in a 2012 article published by Joan Vernikos et al*. and a 2013 interview, hosted on the YouTube channel YogiViews.
This combination of yoga and space science is an initiative of Guerilla Science, an organisation that develops events for festivals, museums, galleries and cultural shows, with the goal of connecting people and science through experiences that are fun, inspiring and challenging!
Yoga teacher Gemma Hart conducted the yoga class in five blocks - first, the anti-gravitational muscles of the back and legs were worked; then systems supporting equilibrium and coordination, all of which are impaired by microgravity; next a walk against resistance, as would happen during a space walk; followed by a demonstration of the effect of microgravity on spinal elongation; and ending with the effects of a lack of gravity on the cardiovascular system.
As Gemma, guided the participants as they assumed different body postures, I described some of the effects that microgravity has on the body and mind of the astronaut. And so it was in this way, that on a beautiful sunny day in Brighton by the sea, I was introduced to this ancient practice, merged with science to form - a space yoga class.
*Yoga Therapy as a Complement to Astronaut Health and Emotional Fitness – Stress Reduction and Countermeasure Effectiveness Before, During, and in Post-Flight Rehabilitation: a Hypothesis - Gravitational and Space Biology Volume 26 (1) Apr 2012