“I’d been in touch to prepare for the new semester’s classes when, out of nowhere, I received an email telling me there were some issues in terms of a formal complaint,” says Jennifer Scharf, a yoga practitioner who offered free weekly classes at the University of Ottawa, Canada, since 2008.
The classes, she was told, had to be suspended.
Apparently, the yoga lessons were an unacceptable “cultural appropriation” of a non-Western practice, and therefore, the Ottawa Student Federation, the university’s independent student body had decided to cancel the classes.
The staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities, where the classes were held apparently sent out an email saying: “While yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students...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 which cultures those practices “are being taken from.”
“Since many of the cultures which yoga has been taken from have undergone some form of cultural genocide, oppression and western supremacy,” the email further stated that “one has to be mindful of this and how they express themselves while practicing yoga.”
Jennifer Scharf went as far as to suggest a change in the name of the classes to “mindful stretching” in order to avoid any problems, but the suggestion was not approved.
“I think it’s easy to worry too much about accommodating everyone,” she said. “By saving one person’s feelings, we’re ruined the experience for so many others.”
Interestingly, earlier this year, yoga was also banned by Russian officials for being “too closely associated with religious cults.”
This is political correctness run amok, where even the smallest of mistakes made are labeled racism or sexism, and one has to be extremely careful of what they say. The boundaries between being funny and offensive have become so transparent that every now and then people land themselves in trouble for saying something out of total innocence which is taken the wrong way.