Caucasian yoga teacher replaced by Indian at University of Ottawa


Priya Shah

Ottawa, January 29 (CINEWS): Not so long ago a needless and some would say pointless controversy over ‘cultural appropriation’ of yoga forced a yoga teacher of Caucasian descent out of a job. However the official reason was a lack of interest. The so-called concern was that yoga was taken or ‘robbed’ from India and exploited by westerners.
But apparently there seems to have been a surge of interest in yoga on campus because the university ended up hiring a yoga teacher. It would not have been an issue except for the fact that the teacher happens to be of South Asian descent, leading some to question the coincidence.
“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,” Priya Shah, the new teacher, told the CBC.
“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.”
She added: “There are many people in my family who practice but I’ve never had the thought that since I’m Indian that I’m a better yoga teacher.”
In a blog post, ousted teacher Jennifer Scharf, of Caucasian background, who taught the class for up to 60 people at the school, expressed her thoughts.
“I heard today that my old yoga class is back on,” she wrote. “Maybe since I called my foes ‘SJW’s’ (social justice warriors) and then refused to speak the word ‘intersectionality’ with people who don’t even have a cursory understanding of the term, the student centre has decided to hire a teacher of South Indian descent.”


Jennifer Scharf

Scharf had taught a popular yoga class since 2008 through the school’s Centre for Students with Disabilities (CSD) — part of the university’s Student Federation — until she got an email explaining it had been cancelled.
“I think that our centre agreed . . . that while yoga is a really great idea, accessible and great for students, that there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice,” Scharf was told by a student group representative in an email. “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.”
So is this a case of extreme political correctness? Should pizzas henceforth be cooked only by Italians, butter chicken only by South Asians… the list can go on. Can English only be taught by Caucasians of British descent?

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