Did you know pedaling was part of yoga? Well, back-pedaling, anyway. That’s what the University of Ottawa is doing furiously these days as they try to reintroduce the yoga class that was cancelled due to concerns of “cultural appropriation.” Not only is the class available again, but, according to the student group responsible for the debacle, the class was never actually “cancelled” but merely put on hold. Tell that to the teacher who lost her job while the class was “on hold.”
The class has a new instructor, too. Born in Calgary, Priya Shah’s family is of Indian descent. The circumstances surrounding the “postponement” of the previous classes was never even raised to her. She was completely unaware of what she was stepping into and now is wondering why she was really hired: competence or ancestry? If “oppression and cultural genocide” were really concerns of the student group, would it not have followed that Ms. Shah be given all the information regarding the situation so she could make an informed decision about her employment? Withholding information is a weapon in the arsenal of oppression – someone needs to take a look in the mirror.
The first instructor is moving on. She’s not one to dwell on the past, but isn’t afraid to call it as she sees it, either. It was her vociferous protest against the actions taken that helped draw attention to the ridiculous situation, educated many people about the origins and intentions of yoga, and eventually helped get the class reinstated. A humble bow of respect and admiration for Ms. Scharf.
Sensitivity, empathy, and the courage to take action are all admirable qualities. But when they are exploited for a personal agenda, they fall far short of the principles upon which yoga is founded. Meditative reflection can help us determine the difference between empathy and self-righteousness, between compassion and political correctness. The differences are vast, and only upon self-examination do we discover our own honest understanding of our motives and actions.
Sending positive thoughts to Ms. Shah, Ms. Scharf, and the students of UOttowa.