If yoga were taught at a university, would it fall under the humanities or the sciences? Perhaps that would depend on the focus of this yoga major. An academic study of yoga history, ideology and philosophy would fall under humanities. A scholarly study of the biomechanics of yoga’s physical practice would fall under the sciences. Perhaps it would be classified as physical education, but that would negate the humanities and science aspects. How would a university encompass the full scope of yoga?
The word “humanities” seems to dictate that yoga would fall under that heading. It’s a decidedly human thing to do yoga, even though our pets often unknowingly and effortlessly hit the poses better than us. Humanities would cover yoga’s roots, ancient texts and philosophy, as we study this system from the Indian culture. Besides the physical practice of asana, yoga includes dhyana (meditation), dharana (concentration), pranayama, pratyahara (diminishing of the senses), and yamas and niyamas (observances and restraints). But we practice these limbs of yoga, rather than simply studying what they are.
When we study asana, we study the physical body - anatomy and physiology, movement and biomechanics. These are hard sciences. Knowing our muscles helps us know how to strengthen and stretch them. An understanding of physiology is inherent for anyone working with the human body. Knowing what movement does allows us to explore different ways of keeping our muscles and joints healthy. Biomechanics teaches us how to increase strength and mobility. Learning about ailments allows us to use yoga to help live with and recover from them. In a yoga major, you’d study these sciences. But in the practice, you combine them with your wisdom as you apply them to yourself.
So how would we create this yoga major? We would need to acknowledge yoga’s existence as a true interdisciplinary study, crossing the lines of sciences, humanities, and physical education/sports. So would you end up with a degree in arts or sciences? Perhaps universities could offer both options, each with a concentration in its respective track. Now I’m getting beyond myself, as each school would decide its own approach. My point in imagining this scenario is to recognize that we study a practice that is interdisciplinary by its very nature, encompassing arts, sciences, physical activity and the study of the Indian culture. No wonder it piques our curiosity and captures our imagination as it touches upon so many areas of the human condition. Whatever aspect of yoga you’re majoring in, you’ll find that at the very least you end up minoring in the other elements of the practice.