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Yoga keeps Si2 team in fine fettle

Solar Impulse 2, the first round-the-world solar-powered plane, is pictured after landing at Mandalay International Airport March 19, 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Solar Impulse 2, the first round-the-world solar-powered plane, is pictured after landing at Mandalay International Airport March 19, 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun   | Photo Credit: SOE ZEYA TUN

Pilot says he does asanas in the cockpit

Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), the world’s only fully solar-powered aircraft that took off from here for Myanmar early on Thursday morning, has a special Indian connection — yoga.

“I was introduced to yoga and meditation 20 years ago when I visited Rishikesh [in Uttarakhand] with my wife ... Yoga and meditation is what helps me going when I am alone in the cockpit flying non-stop for days and hours,” Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg, who is the project’s co-founder, told The Hindu. Mr. Borschberg flew the Si2 from Ahmedabad to Varanasi in 13 hours on Wednesday.

The project’s chairman, Bertrand Piccard, who flew the aircraft from here to Mandalay, too relies on yoga. So does the 70-strong Si2 team. Yoga, meditation and pranayam (breathing exercises) keep them going in their endeavour to circumnavigate the globe covering 36,000 km in the solar-powered plane fitted with more than 17,000 solar cells, Mr. Borschberg says.

“Yoga and meditation gives us balance and keeps us in the right state of mind, which is very crucial when you are on such a difficult mission,” he says. “While flying alone [Si2 has a single-pilot cockpit], we have to stay awake for days and hours ... The challenge is to maintain the right mental attitude and keep thinking right and be ourselves, and yoga helps me in that. Though the cockpit is not big enough, I still do yoga and meditation to keep fit, aware and awake.”

On Si2’s special connection with Varanasi, Mr. Borschberg says the world’s oldest living city was one of the first chosen for stopovers during the aircraft’s journey. By choosing the Indian cities of Ahmedabad and Varanasi for pit stops, the Si2 team wanted to mix modernity with spirituality.

“I came to Varanasi two decades ago ... For me, revisiting Varanasi is like a spiritual journey, and we wanted to make it part of the human adventure that we have undertaken,” he says.

While promotion of solar energy is the most important objective of the $150-million project, the Si2 team highlights several small but key innovations used in the aircraft.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 11:20:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/yoga-keeps-si2-team-in-fine-fettle/article7012317.ece

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