Painting of yoga positions.

Religious Studies: Yoga Studies
Master of Arts

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

Apply for 2020

image: Shaiva ascetics performing tapas. Source: British Museum. CC BY-NC.

Most academic programs offer a theoretical abstract study where there's no practical application of the value of the teachings in your life. And most teacher training programs lack a critical historical awareness of the continuities and discontinuities of pre-modern yogic traditions in the modern global practice of yoga.

Naropa’s low-residency MA Religious Studies: Yoga Studies program addresses both. Rooted in academic rigor and contemplative inquiry, the program blends the best of a comprehensive traditional academic training in the history and philosophies of yoga with a deep engagement into yoga’s most transformative meditative practices. This approach allows you to engage in deep practice—something that you can't do in almost any university in the world, without sacrificing academic rigor and an expansive historical understanding.


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.


Integrating contemplative practice into every semester, Naropa’s MA in Religious Studies, Concentration in Yoga Studies, is grounded in the rigorous study of the diverse and complex history, philosophies, and practices of yoga from its earliest origins until the present day. In addition, Sanskrit language training will give students the opportunity 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, and unveiling their knowledge can transform our understanding of Yoga’s history and enrich current lineages of practice. The program’s comprehensive curriculum also actively explores how contemplative environments and yoga communities can often be blind or indifferent to dynamics of social and economic privilege, the wisdom of cultural inclusivity, and unaware of various species of psychological and cultural bypassing.

The low-residency MA in Religious Studies: 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. 

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

The Structure of the Low-Residency Degree Program

The program begins with a nine-day residential retreat in the fall of the first year just prior to the start of the semester, bringing the students together with their faculty to build community and provide a face-to-face experience of contemplative education. The second nine-day retreat is held in the third year, the week before the regularly scheduled semester starts.

The courses that begin during the retreat continue in the regular semester that follows, and typically end two weeks before the end of the semester. The other courses, starting at the beginning of the regular semester, run the semester’s full length. The program’s online portion includes recorded lectures, contemplative exercises, threaded discussions, occasional live discussion groups or small group work, student presentations, and more.

Ben Williams

Faculty Highlight

“Often people are interested in discovering a single essence of yoga, and once they 'find' it, they stop thinking. We should approach this exploration as a lifelong learning endeavor, a nuanced and complex engagement with history that opens our eyelids to the diversity and plurality of traditions of yoga."

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

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