Ottawa: In a shocking development, the University of Ottawa has cancelled free yoga classes on the campus following complaints that it is a non-Western practice.
The complaints had alleged that the “cultural appropriation” of a non-Western practice was unacceptable, The Independent reported.
Jennifer Scharf had been offering free weekly yoga lessons to students at the university since 2008.
And the abrupt suspension of classes has shocked her.
“I’d been in touch to prepare for the new semester’s classes when, out of nowhere, I received an email telling me there were some issues in terms of a formal complaint,” she told The Independent.
The decision to cancel the classes was made by the Ottawa Student Federation, the university’s independent student body, the international daily reported.
The Ottawa Sun reported that staff from the Centre for Students with Disabilities, where the classes were held for students of all abilities, wrote 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 has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced”, and which cultures those practices “are being taken from”.
The email added that because many of those cultures “have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and Western supremacy... we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practising yoga.”
Scharf even gave a suggestion to rename classes as “mindful stretching” so as to reach a compromise but even that was rejected.
“I think it’s easy to worry too much about accommodating everyone. By saving one person’s feelings, we’ve ruined the experience for so many others.”