International Yoga Day special: Mumbai local commuters perform asanas while travelling in the local trains
Ruchita Shah, a young Mumbai-based journalist and a regular traveller on the local trains, began performing yoga on the train to beat travel time blues
The local trains of Mumbai are touted as the lifeline or rather a second home for the more than 22 million city-dwellers. Many spend hours commuting in it, bonding over games, sharing common griefs and joys, and celebrating festivals. Ruchita Shah, a young Mumbai-based journalist, has been a regular traveller on these trains. Shah, who is an avid yoga practitioner came up with the idea of performing yoga while travelling on a train.
What started as a fun activity in 2017, with just one person teaching 15-20 people, has spiralled into a full-blown foundation that helps scores of Mumbaikars perform yoga while travelling.
"I used to travel in the train every day, to commute to office and to yoga class from Borivali to Grant Road to Bandra and back home. We had a group on the train, playing cards, having fun and lots of other activities. It was our second home. One day it struck me that we do so many things on the train, why not try yoga (sic)." Shah said.
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"In a busy world, where we work for more than 9 hours and travel takes another two or more hours, we don't have time left for exercise or yoga. The commuting time in the train can also be utilized for our health - that was the thought behind the initiative (sic)." she added.
After taking due permission from Western Railways, the initiative officially rolled out on International Yoga Day in 2017, where commuters performed asanas for the first time in the train for about 15-20 minutes.
Six years later, more than 100 yoga teachers, young and old, have joined the programme now run by Heal-Station, a yoga learning platform founded by Shah.
"There are a few yoga asanas that focus on breathing, like sitting parvatasana, sukshma vyayama which helps loosen joints and removes energy blockages, and other stretching exercises like the shoulder rotation that helps relax both the body and mind. These can be practised even in a crowded train both while standing and sitting (sic)." Shah said.
A team of 30-45 teachers perform yoga in Mumbai's local trains for two days, together with commuters. On International Women's Day (March 8) and on International Yoga Day (June 21) people can find commuters in Mumbai’s local trains performing yoga. The International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually on June 21 since 2015, following its inception at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014.
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The year 2022 is the sixth for the initiative and also coincides with the 75th year of India's Independence. Thus to mark that, Shah said about 75 teachers will participate. Permission from Central Railways to spread the programme to more parts of Mumbai has also been taken.
A team will also teach commuters at the historic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This year's theme is Travel Time can be a fitness time, with the slogan Ab se hoga train main Yoga (Now, yoga will be practiced in trains).
"The response from commuters has been incredible so far, with 95 per cent of travellers performing yoga with us (sic)." Shah said.
"We want to roll out the initiative on a day-to-day basis and also to various other cities, like Delhi and Kolkata, apart from spreading it far and wide in Mumbai (sic)." she added. However, getting permission takes up most of her time, she noted, while appealing to the Railway Ministry to provide solutions to make people utilise the travel time to boost their health and mental peace.