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By Alexandra Sifferlin
November 23, 2015

A yoga class at the University of Ottawa was cancelled largely over concerns that yoga comes from “cultures that have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy.”

Instructor Jennifer Scharf, who taught a yoga class to help disabled people at the school since 2008, was told by a student representative from University of Ottawa’s Centre for Students with Disabilities, which is under the school’s Student Federation that the class would no longer be taught. Yoga originated in India, which was previously under British rule.

In an email exchange provided to The Washington Post, the representative told Scharf the following:

“I think that our centre agreed as a hole [sic], that while yoga is a really great idea, accessible and great for students, that there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice. I have heard from a couple students and volunteers that feel uncomfortable with how we are doing yoga while we claim to be inclusive at the same time.”

Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced and what practices from what cultures (which are often sacred spiritual practices) they are being taken from. Many of these cultures are cultures that have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy, and we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves and while practicing yoga.”

“I guess it was this cultural appropriation issue because yoga originally comes from India,” Scharf told CBC News. “I told them, ‘Why don’t we just change the name of the course?’ It’s simple enough, just call it mindful stretching.… We’re not going through the finer points of scripture. We’re talking about basic physical awareness and how to stretch so that you feel good,”

Though she pushed for the class to continue with the focus on stretching, the change did not come to fruition.

[Washington Post]

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