Female Yoginis

Religious Studies: Yoga Studies
Master of Arts

Expand and deepen your understanding of the histories & philosophies of Yoga

Apply for 2020

Female ascetics (yoginis) in Rajasthan circa 1730-1740. Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Public Domain

Naropa’s MA in yoga studies offers comprehensive academic training in the histories, philosophies, and meditative practices of yoga from its earliest origins until the present day. In addition, Sanskrit language training will provide students with the opportunity to begin to access a treasury of Sanskrit texts that transmit teachings on yoga. This archive includes many texts that have yet to be translated or edited. Unveiling the knowledge of these texts can augment our understanding of yoga’s history and forge a shared horizon between the vibrancy of these early traditions and contemporary lineages of practice.



Highlighted Courses

  • Yoga & Globalization—A look at textual sources, historical circumstances, and geo-political processes that helped create the conditions for the emergence of modern postural yoga.
  • Hindu Tantra—This course aims to demystify "Tantra" and create a solid foundation for understanding, appreciating, and historically navigating its many streams, social dynamics, ritual technologies, and philosophies.
  • Sanskrit I–IV—Spanning an introduction to classical Sanskrit language and culminating in a complete study of the full range of Sanskrit grammar in order to support and initiate the process of translating Sanskrit texts


Naropa’s MA in Yoga Studies is intended for yoga teachers, practitioners, and enthusiasts interested in developing graduate-level expertise in the diverse array of teachings and practices of yoga throughout history. This training can lead to a career in the expanding field of yoga research or creative entrepreneurial and service-oriented work in yoga communities worldwide. The program can also act as a pathway to doctoral programs in South Asian religions and Indology, as well as disciplines focused on modern postural yoga, such as sociology and anthropology.

Why Pursue an MA in Yoga Studies at Naropa?

There are a number of ways in which Naropa University offers an educational and contemplative immersion in yoga studies that is truly unique. The curriculum offers a detailed training in the history, practice, and views of major lineages of yoga. This includes a critical study of yoga across diverse Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sufism. The curriculum also charts the emergence of the ‘non-sectarian’ practice of “haṭha yoga” and the twentieth-century flourishing of modern yoga, both postural and meditative.

The MA program integrates the practice of meditation drawn directly from the yogic systems of the Yogasūtra, Śaiva tantra, Haṭha yoga, and Vedānta. Inspired by Naropa’s pioneering vision for contemplative education, the practice of yogic forms of meditation is a cornerstone of this curriculum. From its inception, Naropa University has championed a holistic study of Indo-Tibetan religious traditions. This involves joining critical historical scholarship with a participatory approach that remains open to the enduring value of these teachings and spiritual disciplines.

In addition to this comprehensive yoga studies curriculum, Sanskrit training, and contemplative approach, there are two areas of specialization that further distinguish the program. The first is the study of Buddhist traditions. The earliest practices and teachings of Buddhism deeply informed classical Yoga. The MA program includes an exploration of this understudied area of yoga research, and subsequent traditions of Buddhist yoga practiced in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. A second area of specialization is a comprehensive study of the yoga of tantric traditions, which is also a largely uncharted domain in the history of yoga, upon which the curriculum shines significant light.

The Structure of the Low-Residency Degree Program

The MA in Yoga Studies is a three-year program that is “low-residency,” which means it is primarily offered online, but includes two in-person retreats in Boulder, Colorado. You can enroll in the MA in Yoga Studies from wherever you live. The pace of the program makes it possible to continue engaging your professional life while working towards completion of the degree. We begin with a nine-day residential retreat in the fall of the first year, bringing the students together with faculty to build community and provide a face-to-face experience of contemplative education. A second nine-day retreat is held in the fall semester of the third year.

Ben Williams

Faculty Highlight

“It is important to cultivate discernment in the sense of a historical awareness: the ability to discern many different streams in yogic traditions, and understand their fundamental orientations, outlooks, and practices. This allows us to realize the integrity of each lineage. And thus when we draw from that lineage, we gain greater access to its transformational power."

— Ben Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor
Hinduism and Yoga Studies

A Naropa Podcast with Ben Williams and Nataraja Kallio