White people have always been stiff

Yet again – one keeps checking to make sure it’s not The Onion. It’s not, though, it’s a respectable Ottawa newspaper. [Updating to add: actually a right-wing rag, which sounds like that Sun across the pond.]

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.”

Sorry, white people, you no longer get to stretch. White people have always been stiff and it’s colonialist to try to change that.

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.

Of implication? Do they mean complicity? Or appropriation? Do they think “implication” is a portmanteau word that means both together?

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.”

And therefore we have to stop practicing yoga, and we have to stop everyone else practicing yoga.

Never mind that practicing yoga actually reverses the colonialist relationship. Never mind that the sharing of cultures can be a way of uniting people. Never mind that interactions with other cultures are generally good things. Never mind any kind of detail or complexity – just look at yoga and go “Ooooooh, from South Asia!” and put a stop to it.

Acting student federation president Romeo Ahimakin denied the decision resulted from a complaint.

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.”

Thinky bending? Contemplative reaching? Attentive pretzeling?

What am I thinking, pretzels are German and contemplation is…what, Japanese? Still South Asian? I forget, but it’s certainly not white people.

“I’m not pretending to be some enlightened yogi master, and the point (of the program) isn’t to educate people on the finer points of the ancient yogi scripture,” she told the Sun.

“The point is to get people to have higher physical awareness for their own physical health and enjoyment.”

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.

Ahhhhh yes, you always want to be careful about how the French translation will look on the poster. Naughty people, the French.

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