YOUNG VOICES

University Of Ottawa Yoga Classes Cancelled 'Due To Cultural Appropriation'

23/11/2015 12:38 GMT | Updated 23/11/2015 12:59 GMT

A university's free yoga class has been cancelled after students complained the practice represented "cultural appropriation".

The University of Ottawa informed yoga instructor Jennifer Scharf that her sessions would not be taking place during this academic year after members of the independent student federation decided to remove the classes from its timetable.

The student federation's Centre for Students with Disabilities said in an email: "...while yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students ... there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice".

yoga

Jennifer Scharf says "people are looking for a reason to be offended"

But the course's leader isn't convinced by the centre's argument. "People are just looking for a reason to be offended by anything they can find," Scharf told the Ottawa Sun, "There's a real divide between reasonable people and those people just looking to jump on a bandwagon. And unfortunately, it ends up with good people getting punished for doing good things."

She wrote on Facebook: "To those outraged by a white person's audacity to teach an "introduction to beginner's yoga" class, I must say that I am always working to serve you better."

To those outraged by a white person's audacity to teach an "introduction to beginner's yoga" class, I must say that I am...

Posted by Jennifer Scharf on Sunday, November 22, 2015

Meanwhile, acting student federation president Romeo Ahimakin defended the decision to place classes on a "hiatus" while students were consulted.

He said: "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."

Yoga is derived from age-old practices which aim to connect people with the divine. In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism the word yoga means "spiritual discipline".

The method has since been developed in the modern era, travelling west and attracting legions of followers to the Hatha variation.

In a video online, the American Hindu Students Association explains the technique's connection to the faith.

However, the commercialisation of the practice has been criticised for appropriating the practice's tradition and ignoring its cultural heritage.

But not everyone agrees. One Ottawa student representative defended the classes, writing: "I am also still of the opinion that a single complaint does not outweigh all of the good that these classes have done."

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