Course Descriptions

YGST 610: Health Science and Yoga

Instructor: Dr. Lori Rubenstein-Fazzio

Course Description: In this course we will focus on the relevant anatomy and physiology of the human system as it pertains to Yoga and Yoga Therapy (Chikitsa). Students will acquire a basic understanding of the main systems of the human body with a focus on the skeletal, neuromuscular, digestive, autonomic, endocrine, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. Practical application of this knowledge for Yoga Teachers and Yoga therapists will be discussed. Common Asana related injuries and adaptations will be covered. The subtle bodies in the context of various Yoga anatomy models will be discussed with the goal of the student obtaining a broad view understanding of the human system. As Yoga expands its presence in the Western world, Yoga teachers must be able to communicate with students in a language they can understand. This course will provide the student with a foundation in Western anatomy and physiology as it relates to the physical basis of Hatha Yoga as well as an understanding of its relationship with Yoga Anatomy/subtle bodies.

Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of the course, students will have an understanding of how Asana, Pranayama and Meditation affect the systems of the human body. Students will become familiar with various Yoga anatomy models.

Course Requirements: This course will include lecture and practical lab sessions. Students will complete assigned online learning activities prior to class to enable students to participate in integrative discussions and practical application of didactic knowledge. Students will complete an online quiz prior to classroom sessions to demonstrate working knowledge of didactic anatomy and physiology information. There will be midterm and final examinations.

Required Texts:

  • H. David Coulter, Anatomy of Hatha Yoga; A Manual for Students, Teachers and Practitioners
  • Stuart Girling, Anatomy and Physiology for Yoga Teacher Trainers (e-book)
  • Ray Long, The Key Poses of Yoga

YGST 620: Yoga Philosophy: Text and Practice

Instructor: Dr. Christopher Key Chapple

Course Description: In this course we will explore the foundational teachings of two traditional philosophies of classical India. Vedānta, which includes the study of the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, and later commentarial literature, develops a theology of Brahman that sees an intimate relationship between the inner workings of the human person and the larger rhythms of the cosmos. Yoga, which tends to be less theologically specific, emphasizes practices of ethics, movement, and meditation that have been applied in several religious traditions. We will read and discuss several primary texts and interpretive materials.

Learning Outcomes: Students will learn the major theological categories of the religious traditions of India, including the Vedic approach to multiple deities, Upaniṣadic approaches to embodied spirituality, Yoga’s emphasis on applied asceticism, and the attempt through the Bhagavad Gītā and the Yogavāsiṣṭha to mediate and reconcile these views. Students will acquire a working vocabulary of Sanskrit theological terms and enrich their writing skills through the preparation of two papers.

Course Requirements: The first paper, of about 15 pages, will integrate the student’s understanding of key ideas from the Vedas or Upaniṣads. Topics to be explored may include specific gods and/or goddesses of the Vedas, including research on how these are integrated into the tradition of Hindu household worship; the four “languages” or concept areas of the Vedas; or a close explication of one hymn or a series of hymns. Other themes might include: the concept of Brahman; the role of Self; the “Great Sentences” of the Upaniṣads; the nature of faith; the role of the elements, senses, and body; the significance of food; theories of health and well being; the role of ritual. One could also do a close read of one section of one of the larger Upanisads or devote the paper to a close analysis of one of the shorter texts. The final paper will explore a topic pertaining to the practice of Yoga, the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gītā, or the story tradition of the Yogavāsiṣṭha. It may include a close exposition of portions of a specific text.

Required Texts:

  • Meditations through the Ṛg Veda, Antonio T. deNicolas
  • The Thirteen Principal Upaniṣads, Robert Ernest Hume, tr.
  • Avatāra: Humanization of Philosophy through the Bhagavad Gītā, Winthrop Sargeant
  • Yoga and the Luminous, Christopher Key Chapple
  • The Concise Yogavāsiṣṭha, Swami Venkatesananda, tr.
  • Classical Sāṃkhya, Gerald Larson
  • Karma and Creativity, Chapple

YGST 6025: Sanskrit: Yoga Sutra, Conversion to Synchronous Format

Instructor: Dr. Ana Funes

Course Description: The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali (300 C.E.) has been considered one of the most influential texts for the development of yoga practice and philosophy. Almost every teacher who has founded a yoga style in the Modern times has written a commentary on the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali and there are multiple versions where the same terms in Sanskrit have received different, sometimes conflicting translations. Studying the sutras in Sanskrit allows the reader to go beyond the translation and achieve deeper layers of understanding. This is not only because he or she becomes aware of the cause and origin of the different translations, as well as of the philosophical and practical implications that are involved with the choice of specific terms; but also because reciting the sutras in their original language establishes an intuitive relation with the meaning which can become an inspiration for the practice, as well as a practice in itself. 

We will start every class with the recitation of the sutras assigned for that day. Then we will analyze them in their grammatical and semantic structure. We will compare various translations and discuss the choice of words in different cases. We will make use of the classical and contemporary commentaries such as that of Vyāsa, Vacāspati Miśra, B.K.S. Iyengar, etc., to address the meaning of the sutras. Finally, we will dedicate some time to reflect on the conceptual and philosophical topics dealt with in the Yoga Sūtra.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Read the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali in Sanskrit.
  • Justify the choice of a particular word or phrase to translate a sutra.
  • Recite correctly and memorize the sutras so that they can become a source of inspiration for personal practice.
  • Become acquainted with some of the most important philosophical topics in the Yoga Sutras and the scholarly work on them.
  • Reflect upon the different ways in which the YS are and have been translated by various yoga teachers and scholars.

Required Texts:

Chapple, Christopher, Yoga and the Luminous, SUNY, 2008.

Raveh, Daniel, Exploring the Yogasūtra. Philosophy and Translation, New York: Continuum, 2012.

Āraṇya, Swāmi Hariharānanda, Yoga Philosophy of Patañjali, Albany: SUNY Press, 1983.

Whicher, Ian, The Yoga Tradition. Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice, Motilal - Banarsidass, Delhi, 2002.

Whicher, Ian., The Integrity of the Yoga Darśana. A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga, SUNY Press, Albany, New York, 1998.

Course Work/Expectations:

  1. The group will be divided in two groups: the philological and the interpretive. The first one will contribute with the analysis of the Sanskrit. The second one will contribute with the interpretation given by contemporary gurus on the matter.
  2. Brief essay (roughly 8 to 10 pages) where the student will choose a topic to develop, using one or several sutras, showing understanding of the Sanskrit, the challenges of translation presented by the reading of various commentators and/or scholars, and discuss the meaning beyond the grammar and semantics.  40%
  3. Final exam. Two questions will be given for the student to reflect and present their understanding and reasoned opinion on the topic. 35% 

YGST 6050: History of Modern Yoga

Instructor: Dr. Ana Funes

Course Description: Yoga entered European and North American consciousness through the Romantic poets, the New England Transcendentalists, and the world lecture tour of Swami Vivekananda following the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893. In the 20th century, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Sivananda, Swami Krishnamacharya and many others introduced large groups of people to the principles and practices of Yoga. Practiced by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, etc. yoga seems to transcend any given religion, yet the question whether it is a religion or a religious practice still remains. Today nearly 20 million people practice yoga in America for various reasons, some of which have been considered to be the product of its commodification. The course will explore the legacy of the first yoga teachers who brought it to America and its development from a historical, social, and political perspectives taking into account the current debates regarding the relationship of yoga to religion, culture, capitalism, and colonization.

Learning Outcomes: 

  • Understand the historical process by which yoga became an important phenomenon in the cultural life of America and the West.
  • Identify the main historical figures and key leaders that contributed to make Yoga what it is in Modern times.
  • Become acquainted with different methodological tools to approach the development of Yoga in the West and will be able to apply those tools in the fieldwork.
  • Have the appropriate background to critically assess the possibilities that the practice of Yoga presents in the Contemporary world. 

Recommended Texts:

Sinister Yogis by David Gordon White, The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

A History of Modern Yoga by De Michelis, Continuum, 2008.

Yoga Body: The History of Modern Posture Practice by Mark Singleton, Oxford, 2010.

The Subtle Body. The Story of Yoga in America by Syman, Stephanie, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010.

Selling Yoga. From Counterculture to Pop Culture by Andrea R. Jain, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

21st Century Yoga, Culture Politics and Practice by Carol A. Horton and Harvey, Roseanne (editors), Kleio Books, 2012.

Course Requirements: 

  1. Participation: The student is expected to come to class prepared to talk about the reading and engage reflectively with the material and responsibly with other classmates. A circle talk activity is part of every class where the student will comment, pose a question, or express a point of relevance in the reading.
  2. Guided discussion: A methodological reading will be assigned to one or two students each class for them to guide a discussion that critically integrates the material read.
  3. Two presentations:

a) The student will choose a historical figure or event and present it within context in no more than 12min. + 3 min for questions.

b) The student or group of students will choose one of the methodologies for the academic study of yoga and apply it in a field study.  The students will present their findings, results and conclusions regarding the constitution of the place visited, brief context, characteristics of the practice, elements of yoga that are used, interviews, personal experience and a reflection based on the methodological perspective that was chosen.  

4. Two written pieces:

a) Report on fieldwork for website.

b) Essay 8-10 pages for website. It could be on any historical figure/period, or a critical essay touching upon the issues discussed in class.

YGST 641: Jaina Yoga 

NOTE: This course will take place in India.

Instructor: Dr. Christopher Key Chapple

Course Description: Jainism developed more than 2500 years ago on the Indian subcontinent. Jainism is best known for its emphasis on the practice of nonviolence and its related bio-cosmographical theories. In this course we will learn the basic principles and practices of the Jaina faith and how they intersect with Yoga traditions and Buddhism. This course will take place in India and include travel to significant religious sites.

Learning Outcomes: Students will become familiar with core Jaina teachings on karma, the soul, devotional practices, and meditation techniques. They will know the key historical phases of Jainism and how Jainism adapted the ideas of Yoga throughout.

Course Requirements: Students will read both primary and secondary materials on Jainism. Students will reside in India during this course and can expect to attend a three hour lecture each morning at the Vallabh Jain Mandir in Alipur, North Delhi. Midway in the course we will take up the same schedule at the Jain Study Center adjacent to Central Park in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Each day the student will complete a one to two page paper on the day’s reading and lecture as well as keep a daily journal.

Required Texts:

  • Jaina Sutras: Part One, Jacobi
  • Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions, Chapple
  • Reconciling Yogas: Yogadṛṣṭisamuccaya, Chapple
  • That Which Is: Tattvārtha Sūtra, Tatia
  • Yogaśāstra, Quarnstrom
  • Absent Lord: Ascetics and Kings in a Jain Ritual Culture, Babb

YGST 682: Comparative Mysticism

Instructor: Dr. Christopher Key Chapple

Course Description: In this class we will explore the inner or mystical life as articulated in the life and practice of various religious traditions. We will begin with a study of a modern classic: The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, the pre-eminent American philosopher and psychologist as well as the key ideas of Carl Jung. We will then examine the Jewish and Islamic mystical traditions, as well as key writers in the emerging field of contemplative Christian ecology. Yoga and mysticism will be examined through the writings of 20th century philosopher Sri Aurobindo.

Learning Outcomes: Students will be familiar with the psychological approaches to religious experience as found in William James and Carl Jung. Students will learn the principles and practices of mystical theology from the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Yoga traditions. They will be versant with primary figures. They will also be able to write about and discuss this topic.

Course Requirements: Students will be required to complete two projects. The first will be a response paper and presentation based on a portion of one of the books listed above. This will provide students with an opportunity to explore an area of their choosing, whether the psychological substrate or Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or Yogic approaches to the spiritual life . The second project will be a research project and presentation pertaining to mysticism and/or spirituality, particularly in its relationship to one or more specific theological traditions. Suggested topics might include the life and work of various individual mystics (Rumi, Kabir, Lalla, Hildegard of Bingen, George Fox, Al-Junayd, Patanjali, etc.) or a study of the general philosophical and theological issues that surround the study of mysticism, drawing from literature by contemporary writers such as Nasr, Katz, Stace, Underhill, and others.

Required Texts:

  • William James, Varieties of Religious Experience
  • Joseph Campbell, ed., The Portable Jung
  • David Cooper, God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism
  • Anne Marie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam
  • Douglas Christie, The Blue Sapphire of the Mind
  • Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts
  • Debashish Banerji, Seven Quartets of Becoming: A Transformative Yoga Psychology Based on the Diaries of Sri Aurobindo

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