Ancient practice, new degree: Yoga

Yoga pose at sunset

Yoga has been gaining steam and popularity in the U.S. for years now.

According to the most recent "Yoga in America" study in 2012 by Yoga Journal, "20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study." That's a 29 percent increase in four years. Given such a high demand, new yoga degree and certificate programs have been popping up across the country, as well.

Degree and certificate programs in yoga

While there might not be many yoga programs in existence yet, there is a lot of variety among the ones that have been established. Yoga degree programs and certificates, some of which have popped up as recently as the past couple of years, are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Here are a few yoga programs, to give you an idea of what kind of fitness programs are out there:

  • Yoga Instructor Certificate Program, from College of San Mateo in San Mateo, Calif.
  • Yoga Studies: B.A. in Traditional Eastern Arts-Yoga Teacher Training, from Naropa University in Boulder, Colo.
  • Master of Arts in Yoga Studies, from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Master of Science in Yoga Therapy, from Maryland University of Integrative Health in Laurel, Md.

Students of these programs can study anything from the history of yoga to what it takes to be a yoga instructor or therapist. While some of these programs were only available abroad before, they're now trickling into America, which makes sense given the growing yoga interest here.

Yoga courses

Given the diversity of yoga programs in America, you can't expect the same courses between any two yoga programs. But here are some courses offered in the programs listed above, to give prospective students an idea of what they might encounter:

  • Yoga pedagogy lecture: This course should teach you how to teach yoga, from injury prevention to developing your own yoga courses.
  • The psychology of yoga: You may learn the different psychological approaches to yoga in this course, delving into yoga literature and philosophy.
  • Yoga therapy principles and practices: In this course, you may be taught by an experienced yoga therapist practitioner who will not only inform you on their techniques but lead you through sessions with actual clients.
  • History of modern yoga: In this course, you may explore the legacy of yoga in the west, from Europe to North America. You may also be required to demonstrate teaching ability from different yoga traditions in this course, though that may depend on which kind of yoga program it is.

Keep in mind, too, that there are different styles of yoga, such as Iyenger, Vinyasa and Ashtanga. Check with the school to see which style(s) they focus on to determine if that's the kind of style you want to be studying. If not, then consider another program. Either way, a certificate or degree program in yoga may help prepare you for a career in the field.

Yoga careers

A yoga certificate or degree could help to prepare you for an array of careers within the yoga profession.

Here are just a few careers you might consider after completing a yoga program, according to a list by Maryland University of Integrative Health:

  • Yoga instructor, either at a studio, school, college or privately
  • Yoga therapist
  • Clinical practitioner in fitness centers, integrative health practices, medical centers and other health-related organizations
  • Consultant to community and public health efforts
  • Designer of corporate wellness programs
  • Writer, editor or publisher on yoga or health matters

Regardless of which route you take, yoga in general is a growing career field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Participation in yoga and Pilates is expected to continue to increase, driven partly by older adults who want low-impact forms of exercise and relief from arthritis and other ailments."

And of course, after earning a certificate or degree in a yoga-related major, you may find you're simply better at doing yoga. Who wouldn't want that? With all the mental, emotional, physical and potentially spiritual benefits of yoga, just improving at the practice may be worth it in itself to earn one of these degrees or certificates.


Fitness Trainers and Instructors, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,

Yoga Degrees, College of San Mateo,

Yoga Studies, Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Loyola Marymount University,

Master of Science in Yoga Therapy, Maryland University of Integrative Health,

Yoga Course Catalog, Naropa University,

"Not All Yoga Is Created Equal," Jennifer Cook, Yoga Journal,

Yoga in America Study 2012, Yoga Journal,