University of Ottawa student body to bring back free yoga classes

New instructor questions whether she was hired 'because I'm Indian'

January 26, 2016
Yoga class
Source: iStock

A Canadian university’s student body has announced that it will reinstate free yoga classes for students, after suspending the lessons over fears that they could be seen as a form of “cultural appropriation” of a non-Western practice.

The University of Ottawa Student Federation’s Centre for Students with Disabilities said in a Facebook post that it would resume the weekly classes from this week.

In November, the student body suspended the classes stating in an email 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 the Ottawa Sun.

Romeo Ahimakin, acting student federation president, told the Ottawa Sun that the decision did not result from a complaint, but the yoga sessions had been suspended while the federation consulted with students “to make it better, more accessible and more inclusive to certain groups of people that feel left out in yoga-like spaces”.

However, the new classes will not be run by Jennifer Scharf, who has led the lessons since 2008, but by a new instructor, Priya Shah, who has questioned whether she was hired “because I’m Indian”. Ms Shah told CBC News that the review of the classes had not been mentioned to her by the student body.

“Nothing was brought to my attention to teach in a different way or do something differently than the other instructor because none of that was really mentioned to me,” she said.

“When I read [about it], I was kind of thinking ‘Did they hire me because I’m Indian?…I was born in Calgary, I grew up in Canada but my background is Indian and I’ve been there once before. I was there for about five months.

“There are many people in my family who practise but I’ve never had the thought that since I’m Indian that I’m a better yoga teacher.”

ellie.bothwell@tesglobal.com

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