Yoga class for disabled students canceled because of ‘colonialism and western supremacy’

The Centre for Students With Disabilities at the University of Ottawa has recently canceled a yoga class — designed for people with disabilities — because “there are cultural issues involved in the practice.” canceled

In emails revealed by The Washington Post, the facility told their former yoga instructor, Jennifer Scharf, that her teaching the ancient practice propagated  “colonialism and western supremacy.”

“I would never want anyone to think I was making some sort of spiritual claim other than the pure joy of being human that belongs to everyone free of religion,” Scharf told the Post.

The Centre for Students With Disabilities, a part of the school’s Student Federation, explained the cancellation to Scharf in an incredibly poorly-written email.

“I think that our centre agreed as a hole [sic], that while yoga is a really great idea, accessible and great for students, that there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice. I have heard from a couple students and volunteers that feel uncomfortable with how we are doing yoga while we claim to be inclusive at the same time.”

The email went on to say:

“Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced and what practices from what cultures (which are often sacred spiritual practices) they are being taken from. Many of these cultures are cultures that have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy, and we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves and while practicing yoga.”

Scharf argued that many students relied on the class and offered to rename it as “stretching for mental health,” but the class was still cancelled.

According to the Post, Student Federation president Roméo Ahimakin acknowledged there were no actual complaints about the class in an interview. It appears that “colonialism and western supremacy” were simply used as an excuse to cancel the class in order to make room for other “more inclusive” classes.

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Jennifer Scharf (Facebook)

Perhaps coffee, syringes, algebra, noodles, chess, and vaccinations should also be cancelled on the grounds that they are derived from cultures infected by Western colonialism.

Featured image via Flickr

Isadora Teich

Isadora Teich is a freelance writer and digital nomad who has worked in web marketing, digital branding, entertainment, and news. When not writing or traveling she is probably doing yoga, learning Spanish, or experimenting in the kitchen.

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