Reject compromise of calling it “mindful stretching”
Now they’ve gone too far. Someone tell me this is a hoax, and we’ve all been had.
But, I fear this report from The Ottawa Sun is not a joke.
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 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.”…
Acting student federation president Romeo Ahimakin …. said the student federation put the yoga session on hiatus while they consult with students “to make it better, more accessible and more inclusive to certain groups of people that feel left out in yoga-like spaces. … We are trying to have those sessions done in a way in which students are aware of where the spiritual and cultural aspects come from, so that these sessions are done in a respectful manner.”
Scharf offered a compromise, suggesting she change the name from yoga to “mindful stretching,” since that would reflect the content of the program and would “literally change nothing about the course.”….
According to email correspondence between Scharf and the centre, student leaders debated rebranding the program, but stumbled over how the French translation for “mindful stretching” would appear on a promotional poster, and eventually decided to suspend the program.
What leads me to think this is not a hoax is that for years there have been claims that Yoga as practiced in the West is guilty of the crime of cultural appropriation. This article in XO Jane explains, Like It Or Not, Western Yoga Is A Textbook Example Of Cultural Appropriation:
As a fitness movement, yoga has swept across the US, and it’s been widely adopted in a variety of communities. It’s promoted for everything from supplementing physical therapy to help people recover from severe injuries to staying toned and fit for beauty pageants. Yoga is the New It Thing.
The problem is, that’s not yoga. What people in the US are referring to as “yoga” is actually one aspect of a larger spiritual practice. Practitioners in the US are using asana, or “postures,” a series of poses used to prepare the body for meditation.
Yoga actually includes a combination of exercises, which are intended to connect people with the divine. It’s an aspect of Hindu faith with origins that are thousands of years past, and a very lengthy history of practice across Hindu communities in regions like modern-day India.
There even is a website devoted to Decolonizing Yoga:
There is even a Yoga “Safe Space” movement:
I emailed acting student president Romeo Ahimakin for further comment, but have not heard back yet.
Please, please say this was all a misunderstanding, and that
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