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San Diego County Resident Among First Graduating Class Of Yoga Masters Degree Program

Danielle Fowler, owner of Yoga Oceanside and a graduate of the yoga studies program at Loyola Marymount University, is pictured sitting outside in a yoga posture in this undated photo.
Danielle Fowler
Danielle Fowler, owner of Yoga Oceanside and a graduate of the yoga studies program at Loyola Marymount University, is pictured sitting outside in a yoga posture in this undated photo.
San Diego County Resident Among First Graduating Class Of Yoga Masters Degree Program
San Diegan Among First Graduating Class Of Yoga Masters Degree Program GUESTS:Christopher Chapple, director, Yoga Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University Danielle Fowler, owner, Yoga Oceanside

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. From a challenging workout to do relaxation for sleep, there seems to be a yoga practice for just about everything and now there's a yoga for graduate students. Villa Merillat University in Los Angeles has just awarded its first Master's degrees in yoga. The offering of you could degree the universities may be a sign that Americans are accepting yoga as more than a series of difficult postures. Butwhat constitutes a yoga Master's education? And what can you do with that degree? Recently I spoke with Danielle Fowler who just earned her Master of arts in yoga studies ago she also owns a yoga Oceanside and Christopher Chapple is Director of the Master of arts in yoga studies program at Loyola Marymount University. Here's that interview. Chris, looking at the curriculum for the yoga studies program at Loyola Marymount, I see that there are just a few courses that focus on physical postures. So if you got it is not just a physical practice, what else is it? Excellent question. Yoga has a long history in India both as a word that takes on many meanings and as a practice that includes a variety of aspects and dimensions. Yes, it is true, that in yoga posture is one can stretch forward, lean backward, stand on one had -- on one's head, going into a lunch that's also the case that in yoga one can breathe deeply, one can breathe widely, that one can quiet -- one can hold their breath for very long period of time. It is another very important aspect of yoga. What Mahatma Gandhi did was to identify the ethics of yoga as core to personal transformation. So from the very beginning yoga has been associated with the ethical practices of nonviolence, of truthfulness, of being -- in various ways such as not getting over absorbed in the cannulation of possessions. These are the aspects of yoga that we find very fascinating once people realize that I do have a body I do have breasts and I have this mind that connects me with the world. Yoga helps with that. Chris, you mentioned from the very beginning, can you give us just some background on where and when yoga originated? Yes, that's a question that has puzzled many for release several decades now. We have from about 3500 years ago some images of people in what seem to be meditative yoga postures. We are not sure exactly what they were up to, but we do know that when oral literature becomes submitted through India starting about 2800 years ago that the topic of meditation and the topic of some of the acts of austerity taken up by yogis even today that they are discussed and talked about within -- or literature it eventually becomes written literature and that by probably about 500 BC yoga as meditation had been well established by the early subdues, the early meditators of India by the Buddhist and by Pete Jaynes and then in the -- we get different types of yoga talked about probably around 300 BC and then finally by Route to our 300 CE there's a manual called the yoga Sutra that lays out and -- April joke at that now has become the standard of how to talk about classical yoga. Why in is there so many different kinds of practices? Is very interesting because yoga rows from the landscape of India and the landscape of India is vast and varied. Some people live in deserts. Some people live in mountains. Some people live in forests and with the many languages spoken in India and the many personalities to be found in any group being of humans there will be all manner of dispositions and it seems that the remarkably that a -- yoga came up and be found for just about every type of human person. Chris, how do you approach teaching yoga as a Master's course? What do the students learned? We really do three simultaneous tracks and as you mentioned earlier we do have three courses that focus on what we would recognize as the physical aspects of yoga. We have three courses that focus on the language in which yoga was first expressed which is the Sanskrit language. And we have six courses that focus on the philosophical, ethical and religious aspects of yoga where we take yoga really from a cross-cultural perspective and we study of a Dante, we study -- we study Buddhism, we study Jainism and we also study modern psychological theory and traditional paths of mysticism is founded the worlds religions. Parts of the instruction is in India? Yes. All of the students traveled together. Interestingly, in the summer when it is quite warm, traveled together to India. We take off residents in North Delhi for a period of time. We travel out from there to pilgrimage sites and two other universities and we also spend some time in Jaipur which is a remarkable city in the Rajasthan desert and that particular aspect of the curriculum focuses on the chain religion which is the religion that emphasizes nonviolence like no other and also the ballot its own way of thinking about and practicing yoga. Danielle Fowler you have been a yoga instructor and you have taken teacher training programs, why did you want to pursue this Master's degree? Yes, I wanted to pursue the Master's degree at LMU because I have been practicing and studying yoga for over 20 years teaching over 15. Because of the growing demand for yoga teachers have been training teachers for eight. So I really feel like it is my responsibility to continue my path in learning and understanding the yoga tradition more deeply. And being knowledgeable about how I share that with others. I'm wondering is this like studying the writings of Christian theologians or is more like learning history? How would you describe it? It is probably both. Because the paradigm of yoga tends to be a boat that paradigm but I would consider the studying of yoga to be a mix of philosophy, psychology, spirituality and also direct experience and practice. So the LMU program does a good job of merging all of that together. What is the relationship that you see between the physical practice of yoga and the kind of yoga that you have been learning about in the ancient text? I think that when we are able to embody some of the deeper practices of yoga, some of which is already mentioned the idea of non-harming the idea of being in our truth, if we can experience that in our bodies by knowing what our limitations are and knowing when we need to modify and how to really be kind and gentle to ourselves that that then can be who we are in the world. That must therefore fundamentally change the way you instruct the physical postures? Absolutely. We've been in the universal teachings that show up in the text does change how I teach because it becomes less important people look like in a posture. It becomesmore important what they feel like. This, this program is the first Master's program of its kind. I understand thatyou spent quite some time, years, trying to get it established at LMU. Why did it take so long? Why did it take such an effort on your part? Academia is very careful and in order for particularly a new program to be originated there must be really years of reflection and study. When I first proposed this notion and I had trained in as many years ago back in New York and both academically and in terms of personal practice and during the 1980s yoga was not very well regarded in the 1990s that changed and many, many people really throughout the world begin to take up the practice of yoga and I invited a number of people from different yoga paths to my house every third Wednesday for five years. Based on -- from that I went to the Dean and said we have this really deep interest in this very complex ancient path of study. How about a degree? They said well, and they gave her mission to start an extension. So we actually began with teaching hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands of people participated in those courses through with the the early part of the 21st century. We launched that in 2002. Then some yearswent by and then the administration came and said you were having such great success with this, why don't you think about a Master's degree? I said, what a great idea. [Laughter] Of course, there's all the committees and the budget to set up and then there is the surveying of all of the people who we thought might be interested every year we have to form a new cohort. We are very grateful that things were moving along very nicely. People may remember that there was a legal challenge to a yoga instruction in the Encinitas school district. It was sued. The Encinitas school district was sued when it introduced yoga exercises in its fitness curriculum. Some parents said yoga was a religion and since Christianity wasn't taught in the schools, yoga should be either. Chris, you testified in that case. What did you tell the court? I told the court that yes indeed, yoga comes from India. I also said straightforwardly and wrote in my deposition that yes, yoga has been practiced by Hindus, yoga has been practiced by Gudas, yoga has been practiced and continues to be practiced by James, by Suneet Muslims, by Christians and by juice and that's the floss plus be of yoga is very clear to avoid making a commitment to anyone particular -- viewpoint and itself defined as a way of us. Practice again leading not denying the need for religion and spirituality, but really leaving -- leaving that up to the individual. So the idea here is that provided that the practice itself and its physicality and its process of psychological development is kept in place that it can be a wonderful tool for people of any faith or of no faith at all. And increasingly it is being taken up by even churches worldwide. One of years -- what are your students planning to do with this advance Greek and yoga, Chris? In some cases they look into the future and in some cases they are very much in meaning within the present. Many of our students such as Danielle already have a well-established following as a yoga teacher and/or studio owner. Interestingly, some of the folks are really looking at do all practice, school teachers, people in social work are finding various avenues both within their pre-existing profession and also looking toward further evidence for outreach and of course, always wanting to educate people and through yoga educating people to find their better self, they're higher selves. Danielle, as you well know, yoga has already become a mainstream form of exercise in this nation. Do you think it will become a mainstream spiritual or ethical practice as time goes on? At would be my hope. Yes. I have a strong interest in yoga beyond the pose and in fact this program helps to validate and affirm a lots of what I've already felt about yoga and how it can really provide so much for those of us living in modern times in dealing with a lot of things on our task list and to-do list and so the authentic practice of yoga incorporates ethics and incorporates a sense of returning back to who we really are which and the words of one of my favorite teachers she says is really our own in the radiance and inherent goodness. So if we can teach yoga in a way that brings people back to that, who wouldn't want more of that? So my hope is that that will be what happens in the future. Congratulations, Danielle come on your degree and I want to thank you both very much. I've been speaking with Danielle Fowler who just earned her Master's of arts in yoga studies and Christopher Chapple is a Director of yoga study -- of the yoga studies program at Loyola Marymount University. Thank you both very much. Thank you.

From a challenging workout, to deep relaxation for sleep, there seems to be a yoga practice for just about everything and everyone.

Now there's a yoga for graduate students. Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles has just awarded its first Masters degrees in Yoga Studies to 18 students.

Yoga has been practiced throughout the world for thousands of years.

Yoga has been practiced throughout the world for thousands of years.

"We have, from about 3,500 years ago, images of people in what seem to be meditative yoga postures," said Christopher Chapple, director of the LMU Yoga Studies Program. "From the very beginning, yoga has been associated with the ethical practices of non-violence, of truthfulness, of being abstemious in various ways – not getting over absorbed in the accumulation of possessions. These are the aspects of yoga that we find very fascinating."

Chapple said the university offers three courses that focus on the physical aspect of yoga, three courses on Sanskrit, the language yoga is derived from, and six courses on the philosophical and religious aspects of yoga.

Danielle Fowler, owner of Yoga Oceanside and a graduate of the yoga studies program at LMU, said she wanted to pursue the master’s degree to increase her understanding of yoga.

“I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years,” Fowler said. I really feel like it’s my responsibility to continue my path in learning the yoga tradition more deeply and being knowledgeable when teaching others.”