Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Jennifer Scharf is a yoga instructor who had delivered a free class to students at the University of Ottawa for the past seven years that was cancelled this year due to a complaint that yoga constitutes "cultural appropriation." Errol McGihon/Ottawa Sun

Student leaders have pulled the mat out from 60 University of Ottawa students, ending a free on-campus yoga class over fears the teachings could be seen as a form of "cultural appropriation."

Jennifer Scharf, who has been offering free weekly yoga instruction to students since 2008, says she was shocked when told in September the program would be suspended, and saddened when she learned of the reasoning.

Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities believe that "while yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students ... there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice," according to an email from the centre.

The centre is operated by the university's Student Federation, which first approached Scharf seven years ago about offering yoga instruction to students both with and without disabilities.

The centre goes on to say, "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 centre official argues since 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."

The concept of cultural appropriation is normally applied when a dominant culture borrows symbols of a marginalized culture for dubious reasons -- such as the fad of hipsters donning indigenous headdresses as a fashion statement, without any regard to cultural significance or stereotype.

But Scharf, a yoga teacher with the downtown Rama Lotus Centre, said the concept does not apply in this case, arguing the complaint that killed the program came instead from a "social justice warrior" with "fainting heart ideologies" in search of a cause celebre.

"People are just looking for a reason to be offended by anything they can find," said Scharf.


AND THIS http://www.ottawasun.com/2015/11/23/is-yoga-cultural-appropriation-well-maybe

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