India’s Yoga Capital Hit by Downward-Facing Prospects Due to Covid-19

NEW DELHI—As yoga grew in popularity in recent years, foreign visitors flocked to the northern Indian town of Rishikesh, which brands itself as the world’s yoga capital.

But the pandemic has hit the town of 100,000 on the banks of the Ganges River, with international tourists unable to visit and many of its yoga schools forced to close for much of the past year.

Kalpana Mishra, a 45-year-old mother of two, has had to give up teaching yoga and meditation and get a job working for a local hotel that pays less. She has dipped into her savings to get by.

The pandemic has heightened yoga’s relevance in some ways as many have turned to it not just for its physical benefits but to fight the effects of social isolation and depression, according to the United Nations, which marks June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. The U.N. created the day in 2014, following a proposal by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Today, when the entire world is fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic, Yoga has become a ray of hope,” Mr. Modi said on Monday.