LMU BELLARMINE COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS | LMU offers the only master’s degree in yoga studies in the nation. On Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, LMU’s Graduate Yoga Studies program held its eighth annual Yoga Day. This free, all-day event offered over fifteen individual workshops that focused on the theme “Yoga for Every Body,” sharing the many facets of yoga with workshops on yoga philosophy, pranayama (breathing techniques), ?sana (postural yoga), yoga therapy, meditation and social justice. Grace Ludwig, M.A. ’20 in yoga studies, and a graduate assistant for the program, shared her observations with LMU This Week.
This year hundreds of Los Angeles yoga-enthusiasts from all walks of life made their way to LMU’s campus to participate. Yoga Day kicked off with a welcome by Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa-Baker, acting director of the Graduate Yoga Studies Program, who asked for a moment of silence to acknowledge the Tongva/Gabriellino people indigenous to this land and to pray for all life affected by our environmental crisis.
Khalsa-Baker acknowledged the symbiosis between yoga and LMU’s Jesuit mission to educate the whole person, their intellectual, spiritual and emotional selves and their deep commitment to service and the promotion of justice. Due to this resonance of mission, in 2013 Professor Christopher Key Chapple created the first and only Graduate Yoga Studies program in the U.S. The Yoga Studies faculty, staff and students are dedicated to this mission, recognizing that the ethics of yoga require a commitment to preparing our minds and bodies to act consciously in the world to serve others. The program consists of classes on Sanskrit, yoga therapy, yoga philosophy, history of modern yoga, comparative mysticism and the four dharmic traditions (Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism).
At this year’s Yoga Day, the first session started with a workshop, panel discussion and book launch hosted by Jivana Heyman, author, yogi, and founder of Accessible Yoga and certified by the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher at the 500 hour level. Accessible Yoga is about making yoga accessible and inclusive for every body, age, race, gender, religion, culture, language, socio-economic background, and state of health. For Heyman, the purpose is “sharing esoteric and complex teaching in a readily accessible way, and applying the ancient teachings of yoga to our day-to-day lives” (accessibleyoga.com). The book launch and class featured a panel discussion with Heyman and other Accessible Yoga teachers as well as a postural class thoughtfully designed so that students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds could participate.
After a full day of practicing a variety of yoga styles and techniques, learning about yoga philosophy and mindfulness practices, enjoying kombucha and açaí bowls, and a T-shirt raffle, participants assembled for one last group gathering — a kirtan performance led by Govind Das and Radha of Santa Monica’s Bhakti Yoga Shala.
Kirtan, the Sanskrit word for “praise,” is a performance of yoga practice using mantra and music as an expression of devotion and prayer. While Govind Das and Radha were on stage leading the music with guitar and harmonium, Govind Das makes it clear that kirtan is not for entertainment. It is intended to be a group activity that joins together everyone in the room in “joyful, open-hearted, meditative, and communal” song and dance (bhaktiyogashala.com). It was a lovely way to end such a beautiful day, and left community members feeling a sense of peace and love after such an exciting and transformative day.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for a very successful Yoga Day. LMU’s Master in Yoga Studies program is looking forward to hosting another Yoga Day next year!