Fears of “cultural appropriation” led student leaders to cancel a free yoga class at the University of Ottawa, reports the Ottawa Sun.
Seven years ago, the university’s Student Federation hired Jennifer Scharf to offer yoga instruction at the Centre for Students with Disabilities. Sixty students — disabled and able-bodied — typically participate. Until now.
“Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately,” according to an email from a Centre official, because it is taken from cultures that “have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy.” Therefore, “we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practising yoga.”
Romeo Ahimakin, acting president of the Student Federation, said yoga is on hiatus for consultation with students “to make it better, more accessible and more inclusive to certain groups of people that feel left out in yoga-like spaces. . . . We are trying to have those sessions done in a way in which students are aware of where the spiritual and cultural aspects come from, so that these sessions are done in a respectful manner.”
“I’m not pretending to be some enlightened yogi master, and the point (of the program) isn’t to educate people on the finer points of the ancient yogi scripture,” Scharf told the Sun. She suggested changing the name from yoga to “mindful stretching.”
“Student leaders debated rebranding the program, but stumbled over how the French translation for ‘mindful stretching’ would appear on a promotional poster, and eventually decided to suspend the program, reports the Sun.
Really. Not The Onion.