India to give 3 million bureaucrats free yoga classes

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's government said on Friday it would provide free daily yoga classes for its 3 million employees and their families as it seeks to promote the ancient practice.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an avid yoga fan who credits his strict regime of exercise and meditation for his ability to work long hours on just four or five hours' sleep.

A public circular issued on Friday said the government was "organising regular yoga training sessions from April 1, 2015 for the benefit of central government employees and their dependents".

India's national government, which employs around 3 million people, gave no reason for the move.

But Modi has worked hard to promote traditional Indian practices such as yoga and ayurveda since coming to power, setting up a ministry dedicated to their promotion.

Earlier this year the United Nations adopted his proposal that June 21 be named International Day of Yoga.

It could also be an effort to promote Modi's values of clean living and hard work. The teetotal vegetarian expressed shock after taking office last year at the habits of some Indian civil servants, who were notorious for arriving late and taking long lunches.