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Thousands join Modi for world yoga celebration

By Reuters
June 22, 2018

NEW DELHI: From the Himalayan region of Ladakh to the deck of an aircraft carrier, tens of thousands joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to celebrate the fourth International Day of Yoga, with a few wearing masks to highlight poor air quality.

Modi pushed for the annual event to be held worldwide after winning power in 2014, with the lifestyle industry centred on the ancient physical and spiritual discipline estimated to be worth around $80 billion.

Pictures on social media showed participants braved rising mercury levels and unhealthy air quality in some places to spotlight yoga, India´s cultural export to the world. Countries such as Afghanistan, Japan and Peru held yoga sessions, while Australia and South Africa celebrated on Monday.

In India, more than 50,000 people joined Modi in performing yoga in the lawns of Dehradun´s Forest Research Institute, in the Himalayan foothills of the northern state of Uttarakhand. "From Tokyo to Toronto, from Stockholm to Sao Paulo, Yoga has become a positive influence in the lives of millions," Modi told participants on the lush green lawns.

"In a world where non-communicable diseases, stress and lifestyle-related ailments are rising, yoga can play a central role in mitigating these diseases to create a healthy mind and body. "About 7 million people die each year from breathing polluted air that can lead to heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, the World Health Organization said in a report last month, most of the deaths happening in Asia and Africa. India was home to the world´s 14 most polluted cities, with New Delhi, the capital, ranked sixth most polluted, it added.