LMU Yoga Studies: Diving into the Ocean of Yogic Knowledge
As I’ve completed my first year as a masters degree student in the LMU Yoga Studies program, I find myself reflecting on words of advice I heard in my first 200-hour yoga teacher training. “Don’t try and drink the whole ocean. Take a cup to the ocean, scoop up some water, and sit with the contents of your cup.” One of my lead teachers said these words in reference to the overwhelming amount of information we were being exposed to in the training.
Let’s take this analogy further. That introductory 200 hours of yoga teacher training represented sitting with a cup of ocean water. In comparison, my advanced 300 hour yoga teacher training entailed gradually submersing myself into the water. This took place by first dipping my toes in, and then diving under a wave that was crashing on the shoreline. Attending a graduate program in Yoga Studies, then, is akin to being carried out to sea. This experience carries me from the safety of the steady shores to be completely submerged in yoga tradition. (While I may not be literally “drinking” the water, but I am nevertheless absorbing it into every pore of my being.)
As I write this, I am one year into Loyola Marymount University’s Master of Arts in Yoga Studies program. I enrolled as a residential student for on-campus courses, however, due to Covid, instruction has been comprised of virtual learning thus far.
Celebrating Personal Progress in the LMU Yoga Studies Program
Upon reflecting on how much can be absorbed in a single year, I recognize my progress. For example, I can now read, write, and (sorta) comprehend Sanskrit translation! I’ve survived five 10+ page research papers and countless presentations encompassing the therapeutic applications, rich history, and philosophy of Yoga. This takes place all while dancing between the practice of Yoga and the complex theory behind it.
I’m celebrating where I am now, while anticipating what is still to come. This includes the daunting expedition of a final thesis project that weaves together all the information I’ve learned while simultaneously addressing how I plan to bring this knowledge into the world. I know Graduation Day and Thesis Presentations will be here practically tomorrow. Amidst all of the work, I do my best to stay in the practices and remain present to savor the remaining graduate school experiences as they are occurring. Practicing mindfulness through momentary awareness. This halfway point marks a sacred pause between the inhalation of the start of my journey and exhalation of its conclusion.
Summer School and Certificate Program
After a week of mulling over various areas of interest, I finally decided on a research topic for my summer Buddhism course, bearing in mind my final goal. As Buddhism concludes Summer I semester, my cohort and I move into a Jaina Yoga immersion in Summer II before we reconvene in the Fall.
Heavily rooted in ahimsa, or nonviolence, this course is surprisingly weaving together much of what I learned in Yoga, Mindfulness, and Social Change, a year-long certificate program that is an elective requirement and complement to the M.A. degree.
Before embarking on this area of study, I thought I already stood firmly in my commitment to social justice. This year-long course opened my eyes to multiple truths and considerations of how yoga can be a vehicle for social change. For some, this looks like a commitment to veganism, as found in many ancient texts, while others feel strongly about politics and activism. The certificate program has reinforced there are no easy answers. There are only complex, multiple truths, encapsulated in the Jain term: Anekantavada.
(The Yoga, Mindfulness, and Social Change Program begins again in October, 2021 and anyone can enroll in the entire course, or participate in select topics.)
Anticipating the Fall Semester: Yoga Day 2021
In October, 2021, LMU will be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Yoga Day. Yoga Day is a free event which welcomes scholars from all over the world to present their expertise to share with the public. As a Graduate Assistant for Graduate Yoga Studies, I am the lead facilitator in planning the event.
The Day is another creative opportunity to weave together the multifaceted nature of Yoga scholarship with real world, real-time application. I have the opportunity to participate behind the scenes to make Yoga teachings more equitable and accessible, while honoring its roots in ancient India. I recognize the privilege and responsibility that comes with this role. I am committed to continuing the conversation of the intersection of yoga and social justice and fortunately inspired and empowered by my past year of study. This year’s theme will highlight the paradox of plurality and singularity, exploring our inherent interconnection through individual expressions of divinity.
In the fall, I will continue studying Sanskrit (this time focusing on the Yoga Sutras), along with Comparative Mysticism and the History of Modern Yoga. Rather than philosophy, some of my cohort will opt for a Yoga Therapy concentration. (After graduation, I have the option to continue my studies to receive a Post Graduate Yoga Therapy Certificate.)
Practices in Action
Today, I took a break from planning and writing research papers to visit my grandmother. She is currently 92 years old and was recently moved from an assisted living community to a nursing care facility, since she was unable to move around safely on her own anymore. Her care providers shared that she had a mild case of pneumonia. Information gleaned from my anatomy and physiology graduate course immediately surfaced allowing me to I understand some aspects of my grandmother’s suffering suffering.
Applying Dr. Lori Rubenstein Fazzio’s Health Sciences course, I remembered that the congestion that occurs in a respiratory infection is a manifestation of a kapha imbalance. Oversimplified, according to Ayurveda, her present state vikruti of kapha dosha (dominant energy of earth and water) was intensified because she was not getting much movement in her daily activities. This moment of understanding was accompanied by a feeling of surrender, accepting that there was only so much I can offer my grandma and acknowledging her own path. I may not be able to fix her situation or ease her suffering, but I can offer my support and presence.
How Study Has Changed My Practice
My practice has changed with this acknowledgment that we all have our own path. It is easy to fall into a dichotomy of right versus wrong, especially in our culture. It is also easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of conflicting information grad school—perhaps life in general—presents and feel tempted to shut down. And yet, I return to my mat, to the practices that brought me to this academic path, and embody all that I am digesting and integrating.
If I want to see a more peaceful world, that starts with me. To be clear, it doesn’t end with me or absolve me from taking action. However, the times I look outward and notice how others could be better are opportunities for me to return to the practice and embody the teachings, the changes I wish to see. As a yoga teacher, the true way I can be of service is leading by example: embodying rather than telling, being rather than doing.
Swimming in the Ocean, Finding the Path
Many who begin this academic path are initially unclear when it comes the direction they’re heading and how they to chart their course. My navigational approach has been to dive in and see where the tides, the currents, and the ocean itself take me.
So I continue traversing the seas: usually floating with the current, sometimes catching the wave (feeling like I’m understanding). There are definitely times when I’m completely wiped out or I might be carried away by a rip tide. The solution I’ve found is to embrace my not-knowing or avidya in the face of complex information.
Though the shore I started on is now a distant memory, there is nowhere I’d rather be then learning to ride the waves that come with discovery, multiple truths, and new knowledge.
Learn More about the LMU Yoga Studies Program
Are you interested in learning more about the M.A. in Yoga Studies program? Applications are now being accepted for Fall 2021 (through July 31) and Fall 2022.
View the full curriculum outline, program options including Yoga Studies and Yoga Therapy, and begin your application here: https://bellarmine.lmu.edu/yoga/apply/applicationinformation/
Learn more by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie found yoga while pursuing a journalism career in New York City. While finding success at a glamorous fashion and beauty website, she found the Sex and the City-inspired lifestyle she once believed would make her happy didn’t quite fit. Instead, her soul lit up during her yoga and meditation classes, sending her down an entirely different path of life-long learning. She completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training under Hannah Muse and Kenny Graham in Santa Cruz, California, then traveled with Hannah in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Bali, and India to receive her 300-hour certification. She loves sharing what she’s learned with children and has created a yoga program for preschoolers called True Nature. She is a M.A. Yoga Studies candidate at Loyola Marymount University and will graduate in May 2022.