University's free yoga class is shut down over 'cultural appropriation' fears after complaints from 'social justice warriors'
- Jennifer Scharf said she was notified in September that the yoga program at University of Ottawa would be suspended
- Scharf has been offering the weekly yoga class free of charge since 2008
- Staff from Center for Student with Disabilities said while 'yoga is great' there are 'cultural issues of implication involved in the practice'
A free yoga class has been suspended after student leaders at a Canadian university are concerned the practice of it could be seen as 'cultural appropriation'.
Jennifer Scharf, who has been offering the weekly yoga class at the University of Ottawa campus for seven years, said she was notified in September that the program was being ended.
In an email from the Center for Students with Disabilities, staff wrote that while yoga is 'accessible and great for students', there are 'cultural issues of implication involved in the practice', the Ottawa Sun reported.
Jennifer Scharf (pictured), who has been offering the weekly yoga class at the University of Ottawa campus for seven years, said she was notified in September that the program was being ended
The Center for Students with Disabilities staff said that yoga has been under 'a lot of controversy lately' as a result of how it is being practiced and which cultures those practices are 'being taken from'
'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,' she told the Ottawa Sun.
'The point is to get people to have higher physical awareness for their own physical health and enjoyment.'
The university's Student Federation, which operates the center, had initially approached Scharf in 2008 about providing yoga instruction to students, including those with disabilities, according to the Ottawa Sun.
Around 60 university students participated in the program.
The center's staff said that yoga has been under 'a lot of controversy lately' as a result of how it is being practiced and which cultures those practices are 'being taken from,' according to the Ottawa Sun.
Staff from the center also expressed that many of those cultures 'experienced oppression, cultural genocide and Diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy'.
The center official went on to say that 'we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practicing yoga'.
Scharf, who works as a yoga teacher at the Ramas Lotus Center, said the concept of cultural appropriation does not apply in this case.
She told the Ottawa Sun that the complaint that caused the program to come to an end came from a 'social justice warrior' with 'fainting heart ideologies' in search of a controversial issue that would attract public attention.
Scharf claimed people are just searching for a reason to be offended by anything they can find, according to the website.
'There's a real divide between reasonable people and those people just looking to jump on a bandwagon,' she said.
'And unfortunately, it ends up with good people getting punished for doing good things.'
Romeo Ahimakin, acting student federation president, dismissed the claim that the decision to suspend the program came as a result of a complaint.
Ahimakin said the student federation had placed the yoga program on hiatus while they worked with students to improve it and make it 'more inclusive to certain groups of people that feel left out in yoga-like spaces', according to the Ottawa Sun.
Scharf, who works as a yoga teacher at the Ramas Lotus Center, said the concept of cultural appropriation does not apply in this case (the university shown above)
'We are trying to have those sessions done in a way in which students aware of where the spiritual and cultural aspects come from, so that these sessions are done in a respectful manner,' Ahimakin said.
Scharf suggested that she would be willing to change the name of the program from yoga to 'mindful stretching' as a compromise.
The staff from the center debated re-branding the program before eventually making the decision to suspend the program, according to the Ottawa Sun.
One student federation official, Julie Seguin, said labeling the center's yoga program as cultural appropriation is 'questionable' and 'debatable'.
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