After banning “undesirable NGOs” and swearing in movies, Russia is banning yoga from all public spaces for the “safety” of its people.
Moscow Times reports the owners of two of the city’s main hatha-yoga studios received letters purportedly from government officials urging them to immediately stop teaching yoga in their classes because the practice could “spread new religious cults and movements.”
“One of the letters, seen by Kommersant and addressed from Nizhnevartovsk First Deputy Head Sergei Levkin to the head of social and youth policy Marianna Parfenova, asks that she take all necessary measures to stop Hatha yoga lessons from taking place at the stadium,” the Times reports.
Another one, addressed to the heads of the departments for physical culture and education, identified yoga as "inextricably linked to religious practices.”
The news comes almost a week after grand celebrations were led by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the wake of the first-ever International Yoga Day by the United Nations. He performed various forms of the exercise along with a record number of more than 35,000 people.
In Hindu tradition, Hatha yoga is said to have been founded by Shiva, one of the chief deities of Hinduism.
According to a 2012 study by The Yoga Journal, around 8.7 percent of the U.S. population, 20.4 million people, practice yoga on a regular basis – a considerable increase from 15.8 million in 2008.