University of Ottawa Students Pull The Mat On Yoga Classes As “Cultural Appropriation”

Uottawacoa.svgUstrasana_-_Camel_PoseI have been writing a great deal about my concern over the erosion of free speech on our campuses. Part of the problem is that I sometimes have a difficult time even understanding the objection to some forms of speech or association as in the ever-widening range of things deemed “micro aggressions.” The latest such example is out of the University of Ottawa where students have been told that popular yoga classed have been suspending out of concerns that they involve a form of “cultural appropriation.” Jennifer Scharf, who have been leading the free weekly yoga sessions for eight years, is understandably confused but 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.” Just for the record, the two horses on the university seal are not doing the “Lord of the Dance” yoga position.

Scharf, a yoga teacher with the downtown Rama Lotus Center, insists that the action was taken after a single complaint from a “social justice warrior” with “fainting heart ideologies.” However, student leaders insist that they have long-standing qualms over yoga as a “cultural appropriation” and that changes may have to be made to consider the implications of what people are doing in assuming these yoga positions. That may seem rather . . . well . . . twisted logic for most of us but it seems to make perfect sense in today’s environment of growing limitations on speech and associations.

The center stated “Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced” and the propriety of participating in such practices without considering where they “are being taken from.” The center noted that these 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 insists that they are simply going to examine the yoga sessions “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.” Putting aside the utter nonsense of the basis for suspending yoga classes, there is also the question of the right of the university to control the speech and associational rights of dozens of students who want to participate in this exercise.

In the meantime, sixty students have been told to go elsewhere for the moment if they want a culturally appropriated workout.

40 thoughts on “University of Ottawa Students Pull The Mat On Yoga Classes As “Cultural Appropriation””

  1. Several comments have picked up on the “appropriation of food culture.” I wonder if these students object to non-Asians preparing Asian dishes or non-Latinos preparing Mexican food items.

    “Cultural appropriation” is just another benign facet of our great melting pot. I’m not Mexican but I do prepare several Mexican dishes at home because I love the taste of the food. I’m pretty safe with Asian (because I am), but is it okay if I stray from say, Chinese to Thai? Is there someone in authority I should be checking with?

  2. It’s high time that these appalling yoga classes were banned! They is a God, Timmy! I only wish that I had a nickel for every time the fat, sweaty broad, who constantly parks her yoga mat in front of me, let a treacherous, silent and toxic one rip during downward dog and nearly suffocated me. Words to the wise: beware of fat broads in yoga pants. They look innocent enough, ha ha, but don’t let that fool you. Until now, I remained silent–cowering in fear from the FLM–Flatulence Lives Matter movement–but, alas, no more! I’m free! Free from the noxious, gaseous gatherings known as yoga classes! Thank you, Canada, our weird, somewhat quiet and aloof northern neighbor. Finally, the Canadians have something of which to be proud–the banning of yoga classes! Oh, Canada. . .now I’m singing the national anthem.

  3. he idea of cultural appropriation as been gaining increasing weight in regard to Native Americans for quite some time now. I’ve always found this idea puzzling. Are we to create artificial walls between peoples from ‘different culture groups’. Will we soon be forcing people to hang on to their ancestral cultures and separate themselves by wearing traditional regalia and only using traditional technology from their own group. Currently, it only seems to be a one way street with Euro/Americans the ones not allowed to ‘appropriate’ from other groups, but I can easily conceive of it becoming a two way street as well, with each group locked into it ‘s own walls. Except, who gets to decide where those walls are? Who gets to draw those lines.

    From the beginnings of human history, the main form of culture change has been diffusion. Ideas and technologies flowing from one group to another. In nearly every case, the new group took the idea or the technology but did not take the symbolic meanings attached to that technology, rather they fit it into their own symbolism. Our human cultures would be much less rich and much less useful to us without this history of diffusion.

  4. ” “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.” ”

    I actually think we get along better with cultural sharing. I think cultural sharing sort of automatically leads to understanding and tolerance.

    But if this is the way you want it, I’m good with that. I am ready to give up yoga.

    But if you want yoga back I think you ought to give back PI, the Pythagorean theorem and aspirin.

    No Pi, no peace.

  5. Cultural appropriation – Does that mean we can no longer eat frankfurters, lasagna, tacos, tiramisu, soda bread, pad Thai, kringle, and falafel?

  6. Who feels left out in yoga classes? How in the world can they make a meditative, soothing exercise more inclusive than it already is? Is it really that great an offense if you have to contort yourself, pun intended, to even understand the problem? Why does one person have that much power on campus to prevent everyone else to experience the benefits of yoga?

    If cultural appropriation is wrong, then of course Rachel Dolezal is out. Oh, wait, race is nuanced . Bo Derek’s braids are out. No one can ever buy a dream catcher unless they are more than 1/12 Native American. Buying anything Fair Trade that has the flare of the women who made it is now out. No more tansu credenzas, kimono style wraps…

    What is Caucasian culture? Is it Eastern European? Western? Pict? Celt? The world influences our culture. Californian culture includes Mexican cuisine far more than Cuban, while in Florida you get Cuban medianoche sandwiches. Isn’t “cultural appropriation” merely claiming that enjoying aspects of other cultures is negative? Why do people seem to automatically accept that someone is justified in being outraged, or that they have to change, instead of challenging them to prove their position?

  7. Justice Holmes – you raise an interesting point on the casting of parts. For example, Othello is actually a Moor so he can be any color from light brown to inky black. Historically he was not played by a black, but someone ‘blacking up.’ Now, they want only black actors to play Othello. However, if they were historically correct he would probably be Arab.

    The playwright David Wang has demanded that only Asian characters can perform in his plays, even though other people would be better for the role.

    When it is going to get interesting is when they demand that only heterosexual men can play heterosexual parts. 🙂

  8. I guess this means we will have to give up eating Indian food then. That’s too bad. Oh well…..

  9. Gosh, sometimes you just want to get your yoga card stamped and work up a good sweat.

  10. So who gets to do Shakespear or can a black actor play a character that was written as a white person? All of this BS, is just more “divide and conquer” stuff to keep the little people fighting amongst themselves over trivial whilest the big guys take IT ALL!

  11. Now Canada is joining the politically correct US. On a weekly basis, in some university in this ‘Land of the Free’ some idiot is stripping history bare, sanitizing memories, imposing nonsensical restrictions, etc. Perhaps that wall should have been built a long time ago. It seems that the ooze is moving North. Gotta go, time for my rain dance, yoga exercise, tai chi, karate, judo, and kung foo.

  12. “Reg: All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?
    Brought peace!
    (very angry, he’s not having a good meeting at all) What!? Oh… (scornfully) Peace, yes… shut up!”

  13. I’m completely fine with the banning of ‘cultural appropriation’ if the non-whites and non-Asians throw out their iPhones, quit school, and forego modern medicine, and go back to living in mud huts and defecating in the woods.

  14. I’m guessing Tai Chi and all the martial arts are going to be banned as well.

    “Forget it, Jake. It’s Ottawa.”

  15. One doesn’t need a class or an instructor to practice Yoga. But, if people, let’s say idiotic students, can stop a perfectly legitimate, uncoerced, and totally voluntary association between a yoga “teacher” and her students, then that is an infringement on the right of free association.

  16. Oy vey! I remember going to a big party years ago where the friends of a woman in a wheelchair were trying to get everyone to stop dancing because it upset her. I tried my best to encourage them to let people have fun, and help her find a way to have fun, but she wouldn’t budge and they wouldn’t stop, so I left the party.
    No one is mocking yoga, and I seriously doubt if their is one single yoga master in India upset that yoga is being done around the world, probably quite the opposite. Up til now, the people most upset about yoga were Krazy Kristians fearful of its demonic influence. But now the PC crowd has to get into the act. I hope this idea falls flatter than a good corpse pose.

  17. Ah, those crazy Fundamentalist Canadians. Just when you thought they didn’t exist, out they pop.
    Their flag should have the motto “I fear, therefore I am”.

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