Dozens of students at the University of Ottawa will have to find a new yoga class.
A group of student leaders suspended a free class that has been offered on the campus for the past seven years after concerns were raised that the exercises were a troublesome cultural appropriation, the Ottawa Sun reported on Friday.
The decision to suspend the program, in September, was made by officials at the Centre for Students With Disabilities, which is run by the university’s Student Federation, the newspaper reported. Paradoxically, it was the federation that invited Jennifer Scharf, the instructor, to give free weekly sessions beginning in 2008.
Leaders at the center argue that there has been general controversy over yoga, and there are “cultural issues of implication involved,” the center wrote in an email. Many cultures that traditionally practice yoga “have experienced oppression, cultural genocide, and diasporas due to colonialism and Western supremacy,” and the university needs to be “mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practicing yoga.”
But the class may not be canceled. Romeo Ahimakin, the student federation’s acting president, told the newspaper that the class is “on hiatus” while the federation discusses ways to make it more “respectful.”
Ms. Scharf offered to rebrand the class as “mindful stretching,” but student leaders did not think that was enough.
“There’s a real divide between reasonable people and those people just looking to jump on a bandwagon,” Ms. Scharf told the Sun. “And unfortunately, it ends up with good people getting punished for doing good things.”