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India’s Modi plugs yoga at record-large UN session – Health and Lifestyle News – Report by AFR

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the International Day of Yoga Wednesday as he took part in a multi-country session of the ancient discipline at UN headquarters.

“Yoga means to unite. So your coming together is an expression of another form of yoga,” Modi, dressed all in white, said on the first day of a visit to the United States.

It was Modi who engineered the creation in 2014 of the International Day of Yoga every June 21 through a UN General Assembly resolution. 

On yellow mats at a grassy area of the UN complex by the East River, people from 135 countries stretched and meditated at Wednesday’s group session. This set a record for nationalities in one go at yoga, the Guinness organization said.

“Today, it is wonderful to see the entire world come together again. For yoga,” Modi said in a speech before the session.

“Let us use the power of yoga. Not only to be healthy, happy, but also to be kind to ourselves and to each other. Let’s use the power of yoga to build bridges of friendship, a peaceful world and a cleaner and sustainable future,” he said, after pausing at a bust of Mahatma Gandhi.

Since coming to power in 2014 Modi has used yoga as a way to promote India on the international stage.

Yoga — the traditional Indian discipline of physical and spiritual practices — is now followed around the world, and UNESCO declared it to be an intangible world cultural asset in 2016.

Another record was set on this edition of the International Day of Yoga: some 153,000 people took part in a mass session in the city of Surat in the state of Gujarat, local authorities said.

After his visit to New York Modi is due to travel to Washington for talks at the White House with President Joe Biden and a speech to Congress.

Biden will host Modi for a state dinner, only the third time the US leader has bestowed such an honor on a foreign visitor.

The Indian government is billing this visit to enhance ties with the US as historic. 

It comes as Modi, a Hindu nationalist, comes in for criticism from NGOs and the United Nations over his record on human rights.

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