Praising yoga as “truly universal,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi practiced it Wednesday with a multinational crowd at the United Nations, as he kicked off the public portion of his U.S. visit by calmly flexing India’s cultural reach.
This year’s version set a Guinness World Record, announced on-scene, for most nationalities — 135 — at a yoga lesson and drew actor Richard Gere, New York Mayor Eric Adams, U.N. General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi and Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, among other dignitaries.
With a checkerboard of made-in-India yoga mats covering the U.N. headquarters’ spacious north lawn, PM Modi stopped and bowed at a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Then, in brief remarks, Modi turned to the topic at hand, portraying yoga as an all-ages, portable practice accessible to all faiths and cultures.
“When we do yoga, we feel physically fit, mentally calm and emotionally content. But it is not just about doing exercise on a mat,” PM Modi said. “Yoga is a way of life.”
Over the next 35 minutes, he joined in breathing exercises, meditation, backbends and other poses ranging from cobra to corpse as a cloud-filtered sun glinted off the adjacent East River and the flags of the UN member nations rippled in the breeze.
The event honored the International Day of Yoga, which Modi persuaded the U.N. to designate in 2014 as an annual observance.