University of Ottawa scraps free yoga class over ‘cultural’ concerns

Political correctness seems to have claimed its latest victim: yoga. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The University of Ottawa is being ridiculed around the world for its politically correct stance on yoga.

Jennifer Scharf was recently informed that the free yoga class, which she’s taught at the school’s Centre for Students with Disabilities since 2008, would not be offered this semester.

At first the local yoga instructor thought it was a money issue, so she offered to teach the class for free.

But, according to an email exchange she shared with Global News, a representative from the university’s Student Federation told her: “There are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice.”

“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,” said the school official, whom Scharf does not want identified.

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“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.”

Scharf replied that, in her class, she focuses on “just stretching” and doesn’t include any spirituality. She offered for the class to be renamed “mindful stretching” to ease any concerns of cultural appropriation.

Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago. Its basic components are physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. In recent years, the practice has gained immense popularity with millions of North Americans, who use it as a form of physical and mental exercise.

While school officials briefly considered changing the name of the yoga class, ultimately, it was still scrapped.

“At the end of the day, they were unreasonable,” Scharf said.

On Monday, the story had spread around the globe.

“I think part of the reason that this is so popular now is that people are just pushed to a point that this — accommodating whining people for no good reason, or for not a good enough reason — has just gone too far,” said Scharf.

People of all political stripes seem to agree with her.

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Neither the Centre for Students with Disabilities, nor the Student Federation responded to an interview request from Global News.

On Facebook, though, the centre maintains that the yoga class was not cancelled, but simply “put on hold” while staff conduct a “proper consultation” on the matter.

It also justifies the suspension with the claim that “no one was attending the classes.”

Scharf blames that on a lack of promotion, adding that at one point, roughly 60 people attended the class and there was barely enough room for everyone.

File Photo/Global News

She thinks it’s unfortunate that students will no longer have access to the physical and mental benefits that yoga has been known to provide.

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WATCH: It’s reported that more than 20 million North Americans are now practicing in yoga. Dr. Samir Gupta talks about some of the proven health benefits.

“A lot of people who go to university don’t have any money to spend on whatever it costs to take a yoga class in a studio,” she said.

Despite all the controversy surrounding the class, Scharf says she would return to teach the class if the university changes its mind.

Until then, like a true yogi would, she has chosen to focus on the positive.

“Who thought we could get people on the same side of something in this day and age,” she said. “Honestly, it’s hilarious.”

“I’m hoping as a global society we can all take a look at this and have a good laugh. Because it is really funny.”

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WATCH: Yoga instructor Daawn Mauricio demonstrates the basic yoga poses and explains why they’re good for your body and mind.

Earlier this year, officials in a central Russian city also called off yoga classes. The move, according to The Moscow Timeswas said to be crucial “in order to prevent the spread of new religious cults.”


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