Putin to add yoga to his sports repertoire

MOSCOW • Maybe somebody told Russian President Vladimir Putin that yoga was all about the warrior poses. Or maybe it was just part of his Asian charm offensive.

But whatever the inspiration, Mr Putin avowed on Wednesday that he was ready to add yoga, the ancient discipline of mindfulness and stretching, to his repertoire of macho sports.

"I have tried many things but never yoga, but it cannot fail to attract," Mr Putin told Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during a meeting in the southern Russian city of Ufa, according to a transcript on the presidential website.

Mr Putin expressed admiration for yoga after Mr Modi thanked him for the enthusiasm with which International Yoga Day - which Mr Modi helped inaugurate on June 21 - was greeted in Russia.

Mr Putin, 62, is not shy about sharing his athletic prowess with the world. He holds a black belt in judo, has been photographed driving a Formula One race car and has worked to improve his hockey game.

He also swims, once reportedly downed a charging tiger with a tranquilliser dart, and has been photographed hunting and horseback riding while bare-chested.

Whatever is behind his embrace of yoga, Mr Putin apparently missed the memo from the central Russian city of Nizhnevartovsk last month announcing that it was booting two yoga studios out of municipal space. The city said it was doing so "to prevent the spread of new religious cults and movements".

Mr Putin's meeting with Mr Modi came as part of two summit meetings Russia is hosting simultaneously in Ufa that are meant to show, among other things, that Russia has friends.

But the Russian leader acknowledged that the asanas or yoga postures might not come easily. "I will see what my level of fitness allows," he told Mr Modi. "But when you see real yogis, it seems that it would be impossible to reach that kind of skill, and that's what stops me."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Putin to add yoga to his sports repertoire'. Print Edition | Subscribe