The University of Ottawa has suspended free yoga classes for disabled students due to cultural appropriation concerns. The Student Federation decided that free yoga classes weren’t inclusive enough, so they’re not letting instructor Jennifer Scharf offer classes at the campus’s Center for Students with Disabilities.
“People are just looking for a reason to be offended by anything they can find,” Scharf told the Ottawa Sun. “There’s a real divide between reasonable people and those people just looking to jump on a bandwagon. Unfortunately, it ends up with good people getting punished for doing good things.”
She has been teaching the class free of charge to 60 students since 2008, but student leaders decided in September to cancel the classes. They said the cultures yoga stems from “have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy,” according to the Sun. “We need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practising yoga.”
Scharf explained this was a beginner-level class that focused on physical yoga poses, not on ancient yogi scripture. She even offered to rename the class, calling it “mindful stretching” instead of yoga.
“The point is to get people to have higher physical awareness for their own physical health and enjoyment,” she said.
But student leaders they weren’t happy with how the phrase translated to French, and they worried about what it would look like on the promotional posters.
They ultimately decided to deprive disabled students of the opportunity to participate in a free yoga class until they can “make it better, more accessible and more inclusive to certain groups of people that feel left out in yoga-like spaces.”