The CBC did a story on the “no yoga for you!” situation at the University of Ottawa, so we no longer have to rely on the right-wing tabloid the Ottawa Sun.
Jen Scharf said she’s been teaching a free yoga class for the university’s Centre for Students with Disabilities, which is run by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, for the last seven years.
It’s free, and it’s for students with disabilities…so you’d think it would be an all-around good thing, wouldn’t you?
When she checked back in with the centre in September, she said she was told by them the class wouldn’t be happening because some students and volunteers were uncomfortable with the “cultural issues” involved.
“I guess it was this cultural appropriation issue because yoga originally comes from India,” she said on Sunday. “I told them, ‘Why don’t we just change the name of the course?’ It’s simple enough, just call it mindful stretching.… We’re not going through the finer points of scripture. We’re talking about basic physical awareness and how to stretch so that you feel good.
“That went back and forth… The higher-ups at the student federation got involved, finally we got an email routed through the student federation basically saying they couldn’t get a French name and nobody wants to do it, so we’re going to cancel it for now.”
Well great. Let’s just cancel everything, to be on the safe side. If there’s ever any doubt or ambiguity, just err on the side of cancellation. Cancel all the talks, all the books, all the lectures, all the movies, all the conversations, all the ideas. They all have the potential to go wrong, so it’s better to do nothing. Nothing at all.
Cultural appropriation is when a culture that’s seen as an oppressor borrows or steals elements of a culture they’re oppressing. Scharf said there is also concern over yoga instructors who claim to be experts in the more spiritual aspects of yoga, but aren’t.
“I’m not claiming it’s anything more than a physical practice within that class,” she said. “There’s been so much positivity and so many people positively helped by this, and that’s part of the reason why I’m fighting so hard to keep it.”
She clearly doesn’t understand the “when in doubt, cancel it” principle. She thinks that because it was helping people, it should continue. We’d all better shun her.
In a French-language interview with Radio-Canada, student federation president Roméo Ahimakin said there were no direct complaints about the class, more general questions about the issues and ideas around it.
Ahimakin said they suspended the class as part of a review of all their programs to make them more interesting, accessible, inclusive and responsive to the needs of students.
Good thinking. He gets the principle. Cancel everything in order to make it more good things.
[A]t the Hindu Temple of Ottawa-Carleton, one husband and wife said they didn’t have an issue with what they’ve seen around the community and didn’t agree with the idea that non-Hindus teaching yoga is culturally insensitive.
“In Hindi ‘yog’ means to unite. To unite with who? With your true self. That’s what yoga is. Here we tend to relate it with the postures but it’s not just postures… and it has nothing to do with religion,” said Girija Waghray, who’s been teaching yoga around Ottawa for more than 10 years.
“It’s basically focusing on our health. By calming our mind, our mind becomes positive.”
Dilip Waghray said he’s been practising yoga for 50 years and while he’s uncomfortable with how it’s been commercialized in the West, he chooses to focus on the benefits it’s having.
Ah no, that’s the shortsighted “don’t cancel everything” view, which ignores the need for safety and mental purity. Benefits are just grubby material things, what we’re after is perfection and purity, which can be attained only through 100% cancellation.