Tens of thousands join Indian leader for world yoga day

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"The world has embraced yoga and glimpses of this can be seen in the manner in which International Day of Yoga has been marked every year", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

The United Nations declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga after Modi, a Yoga enthusiast, lobbied for the ancient Indian art.

In India, the main event was kick-started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who performed yoga along with over 50,000 enthusiasts at Dehradun's sprawling Forest Research Institute.

"Yoga Day is also being celebrated in Islamic countries of the world, but the West Bengal government is politicising everything", he said. The enthusiasm of getting from "illness to wellness" is spreading from the busy streets of the South Korean capital, Seoul, to the foot of Eiffel Tower in Paris. Last year, after inaugurating the programme at the Assam Rifles ground, the then Governor Lt Gen (retired) Nirbhay Sharma said: "Some believe that yoga is a religious activity impinging on other faiths".

Two years ago, the influential Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitute Committee, which is a conglomerate of 15 major churches, had boycotted the celebration saying yoga is "dipped in Hinduism".

"Yoga has become one of the most powerful unifying forces in the world".

Oyinye Ugwueke, a Yoga Instructor and CEO of Olifestyleholistic, is one of the few certified Yoga Instructors in Nigeria.

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Yoga includes stretching and bending of body besides doing breathing exercises aimed at transforming body and mind.

Mrs Ugalahia said although Yoga used to be seen as an act of worship or spirituality by Indians and Buddhist, it has evolved in recent years.

"Designed to help individuals build self-realisation, ease any suffering they may be experiencing and allow for a state of liberation, (yoga) is practised by the young and old without discriminating against gender, class or religion", UNESCO added in a tweet. The prime minister had earlier participated in yoga celebrations at Rajpath in New Delhi in 2015, the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh in 2016, and the Ramabai Ambedkar Sabha Sthal in Lucknow in 2017.

Modi stated: 'Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition.

Yoga was also performed on board the Japanese naval ship JS Ise and on the Indian Navy's INS Sahyadri taking part in military exercises in the western Pacific, the Indian Navy said.

Yoga as a spiritual practice was popularised at this time with the more athletic and dynamic methods developed in the 1980s and 1990s, says Mark Singleton from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. "This kind of false propaganda will only keep common people away from yoga and reduce its popularity", he said.

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