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People Are Angry After A Yoga Teacher Said A School Suspended Her Class Over "Cultural Issues"

The student association told BuzzFeed News that the program was put on hold to "make sure that it is in fact something wanted by the students at the time."

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Jennifer Scharf has been teaching a free yoga class for years to students with disabilities at the University of Ottawa, she told the Ottawa Sun.

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The class was part of a service provided to students through the school's Student Federation, the federation's vice president of equity Nicole Maylor told BuzzFeed News.

The program was not run by the university, but by the student group.

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However, Scharf claims that this year she was told the class was being put on hold. She said the reason given was that "there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice."

Scharf shared emails with the Ottawa Sun from the Student Federation, in which the student representatives say that yoga is controversial because of "how it is practiced" and the cultures it is taken from.

"[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 practicing yoga," the students said according to the newspaper.

The instructor told the Ottawa Sun that she thinks the class' suspension was a result of people just trying to be offended over anything.

"There's a real divide between reasonable people and those people just looking to jump on a bandwagon," Scharf said. "And unfortunately, it ends up with good people getting punished for doing good things."

Scharf added that she suggested changing the name to "mindful stretching," but said the representatives didn't know if that would work once translated to French. She said she suggested it because she doesn't claim to be an "enlightened yogi master."

"The point is to get people to have higher physical awareness for their own physical health and enjoyment," she told the Ottawa Sun.

As the story began to spread, many people on Twitter began to jump to Scharf's defense.

University of Ottawa cancels yoga over cultural appropriation concerns because everything has gotten very stupid. https://t.co/rBWjqMvUKx

"Nonsense. Take pride in cultural exports instead of policing how the exports diffuse. You don't need to participate," one Twitter user wrote.

Nonsense. Take pride in cultural exports instead of policing how the exports diffuse. You don't need to participate. https://t.co/2rgc1G5Lsw

In response to the article, Maylor told BuzzFeed News that the class was suspended as part of a "holistic review of the programming that is happening to make sure that it is in fact something wanted by the students at the time."

"This year the center decided to put this activity on hold to look at a more holistic approach in providing yoga to students that fit the needs of the students and fit the mandate of the center," Maylor said.

She said that any cultural concerns involved in discussion about the program were only one part of the discussion surrounding the class.

"We acknowledge that cultural aspects of yoga is a large discussion going on around the world but it was not the only aspect to this conversation..." she said.

However, when asked directly whether the Student Federation cited "cultural appropriation or cultural issues" in its suspension of the class, Maylor said she had no further comment.

Maylor said she wants people to focus on "the real issues of disability on our campus," not the controversy over the yoga class.

Maylor did say that the federation has talked about bringing the program back, but its unclear whether Scharf would participate. In a post on Facebook, Scharf defended her right to teach yoga, saying she is just a "yoga fanboy" at heart.

"To those outraged by a white person's audacity to teach an 'introduction to beginner's yoga' class, I must say that I am always working to serve you better," she said.

BuzzFeed News has contacted Scharf for comment.

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