Loyola Marymount University recently announced it will begin offering a Master of Arts in Yoga. Although often viewed today as a form of exercise independent of its religious origins in Hinduism, yoga spirituality seems to be a heavy emphasis of the LMU graduate degree program.
According to LMU’s Yoga Studies Facebook site, the purpose of studying yoga is “to provide educational opportunities for adult learners, which strengthen their religious and spiritual formation as ministers, educators, and leaders committed to service and the pursuit of justice in their own communities.”
Christopher Key Chapple, director of the Master of Arts in Yoga and a professor in the LMU Theological Studies department, says on the University’s website, "By remaining deliberately ambiguous and non-dogmatic about ultimate theological issues, the Yoga tradition establishes itself as a positive proponent for individual spiritual development for persons of all religious backgrounds and creeds."
The same webpage invites students to “immerse yourself in the study of traditional Yoga and discover the spiritual self within. Whether you are a student of yoga, an instructor in need of professional development, or simply looking to quench your own spiritual curiosity, the Center for Religion and Spirituality has something for you.”
The late Catholic theologian Father John Hardon, S.J., wrote plainly that “Yoga is incompatible with Catholicism, because the best known practice of Hindu spirituality is Yoga.”
In 1989, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith warned about the “dangers” involved in Catholics implementing eastern methods of meditation such as yoga. The document stated, “With the present diffusion of eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities, we find ourselves faced with a pointed renewal of an attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian.”
To generate awareness of the new program, Chapple is offering a free Lecture on Yoga Spirituality to anyone interested.