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Continuing Education: Yoga Philosophy

Look down any yoga class schedule and usually you won’t find many offerings for yoga philosophy. Mostly reserved for teacher training programs—and then crammed into a weekend or two—philosophy is usually dwarfed by the popularity of asana, which is just one of yoga’s eight “limbs.” I went on a search to find who is offering philosophy classes in New York this year and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not just reserved for the hard-core student practicing svadyiya—self study—anymore. Yes, it can seem mysterious, but yoga’s deeper ideas offer inspiration for teaching and practicing, and – perhaps most importantly – for life.

More and more students are finding that foundational texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Samkhya Karika are best studied with an experienced teacher who can explain the nuances of Eastern ideas and the trickiness of the translations. Self-study, of course, is a good habit to develop, but it also means persevering without help of a guide or the the morale of a discussion group. Since it’s worthwile to find a sangha to study with, we’ve put together a list of great classes. Considering how ambitious and cerebral New Yorkers generally are, it’s not surprising that this gap in our continued yoga education is starting to close.

Ongoing Groups and Classes
The Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York, Manhattan
212 691 YOGA
The Iyengar Institute offers a free weekly sutra study group taught by their faculty on Fridays from 1:30-2:45pm. This might just be the best deal in town.

Also, February 26 – 28, 2010, Edwin Bryant, professor of Ph.D. in Indic languages and cultures at Rutgers University, will offer a weekend workshop on first chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Full weekend or drop in (prices vary).

Jaya Yoga Center, Brooklyn
718 788 8788
The Jaya Book Club / Study Group will begin Saturday January 16 at 5:45 pm with an in-depth look at the Bhagavad Gita. From the web site, “Our guide will be Eknath Easwaran’s three volume set The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living: The End of Sorrow Vol. 1. Chapters 1–3.”

Jivamukti Yoga School, Manhattan
212 353 0214
Beginning Tuesday January 26th 8 – 9:30 pm and running through June 8th, Joshua M. Greene, Professor of Religion at Hofstra University, will offer readings, analysis, and verse recitations of the Bhagavad Gita. $18 drop-in, $290 for series

The Shala, Manhattan
212 979 9988
The Shala near Union Square offers a weekly Bhagavad Gita study group at 6:15pm on Thursdays led by Kaustubha Das, ashtanga yoga teacher and director of the Bhakti Collective. Free.

Sivanada Yoga Vedanta Center, Manhattan
212 255 4560
The Sivananda Center on W24th Street, one of New York’s oldest yoga centers, offers ongoing workshops in Vedanta philosophy and its practical application, as well as the laws of karma, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Vira Yoga, Manhattan
212 334 9960
“Kali in the Twelve Processions of Light and Darkness: A Tantric Practice of Body, Heart, and Voice.” Dr. Douglas Brooks of Rajanaka Yoga will discuss aspects of Kali as a powerful force in Tantric teaching. With chanting. Saturday and Sunday, February 13-14th, 2010.

Yoga Sutra, Manhattan
212 490 1443
Yoga Sutra offers regular ongoing classes in yoga studies so check their calendar. Last fall they offered “Chanting the Yoga Sutras” with Kimberly Flynn, a student of Sanskrit recitation with Dr. M.A. Jayashree in Mysore, India, since 1998.

Wandering Sages
Manorma, founder the School of Sanskrit Studies, holds courses on Sanskrit, chanting, and yoga philosophy at various locations around the country, but often in New York City.
At Vira Yoga January 26, 2- 3:30, February 23, March 23, May 25; at Jivamukti every 3rd Wednesday of the month beginning January 20th. Check her schedule for updates at http://www.sanskritstudies.org/.

Yoga Studies Institute, teaches yoga texts and traditions also at various locations around the country and often in New York City. The Classics of Yoga are interpreted by Geshe Michael Roach, Christie McNally, and YSI staff.

For classes in Sanskrit, try Columbia University or NYU’s continuing education programs.

If you really want a solid grounding in all the yoga texts, and are willing to travel, Loyola Marymount University in LA offers a comprehensive certificate program in Yoga Philosophy through their extension program. But you have to go to the left coast.

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