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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extolled yoga as a "shield" of immunity to the coronavirus as his nation battles an increase in infections

Modi, an avid yoga practitioner who has long advocated the benefits of ancient Indian practice, gave the advice in a YouTube message ahead of World Yoga Day on Sunday. "We all know that so far they haven't been able to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 or coronavirus anywhere in the world," Modi said in the video released on Thursday. "Therefore, at the moment, only strong immunity can act as a shield or bodyguard for us and our family members ... Yoga is our trusted friend in building that shield (of immunity)." The Indian leader, a total tea vegetarian, set up a ministry to promote yoga, Ayurveda and other traditional Indian treatments when he came to power in 2014. Modi first proposed World Yoga Day to the United Nations and won approval in 2014. The day usually looks like crowds of people gathered for public yoga events not just in India but around the world, despite Modi encouraging people to "go indoors" this year. Modi also praised yoga as a way to alleviate the extraordinary stress people endure due to the virus. "Yoga has the potential to meet mental, physical and psychological challenges. It tests how you can live in challenging times," he said. In January the Ministry of Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homeopathy) published a notice on how ancient homeopathy and Ayurvedic remedies could help Indians fight the coronavirus. However, experts including the US National Institutes of Health have warned that "there is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative agents can prevent or cure COVID-19". India's national and state governments have also emphasized the importance of wearing masks and social distancing. The South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people is the fourth largest country in the world with more than 380,000 virus infections, according to official figures.

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