More and more yogis are realizing the joy and convenience of establishing a home practice, but wonder how to create a space that feels appropriate and sacred when practicing away from a traditional yoga shala.
As sensory creatures, we are profoundly affected by our environment in myriad ways – both consciously and unconsciously. Using that to our advantage, there are several factors to consider when carving out a place at home where we can really focus and step away from our daily distractions.
Sights, sounds, and sensations can either contribute to our sense of ease and well-being or distract us and take us out of the present moment. For this reason, it’s important to be very aware of the details when creating a comfortable space and setting the stage for relaxation.
To that end, here are several easy tips for converting an extra room – or even a small space in a room used for other purposes – so that it’s a welcoming place for you to focus on your practice. We’ve also included some bonus suggestions at the end if you have the available space.
Starting with a clean and clutter-free room will help create a sense of calm and reduce distractions, ensuring your attention isn’t easily diverted away from your practice. Don’t worry if it feels too austere at first; there will be opportunities to decorate and personalize in a meaningful and purposeful way after beginning with a clean slate.
Next, be sure that your space is warm enough. Unless your environment is already hot, then heat the room or area a few degrees higher than normal to give it a cozy feeling. This could be ideal with a fireplace in winter because of the added beauty and comfort, but giving the thermostat a nudge is great, too. This allows you to wear thinner, looser clothing for more freedom of movement and less of a sense of restriction. The physical will translate to the emotional. Dress in comfortable clothing – cotton, silk, soft wools, etc. Warmer temps also allow you to go barefoot – creating a more direct feeling of connection to the world around you.
What we see around us can spark relaxation or create distraction. We are incredibly visual creatures, so this element can help a great deal. If windows look out on serene, natural environments, then feel free to leave shades open. If it is a more urban environment or there is lots of activity outside, then close the blinds to bring the focus inward. If you’re looking for a sense of calm, then lean toward various blues or earth tones in paint, furniture, and accessories. If you want a more vibrant feel, then reds, oranges and bright yellows will elevate the energy.
Lower the lights using a dimmer, if possible. If no dimmer, then even just reducing the number of lights that are on and covering a lamp with a scarf to drop the lumens and shift the tone of the light can help. Also, shift the color temperature of the bulbs you have if they tend toward the blue end of the spectrum. A color temp around 2700-3000 is great; try to avoid anything over 5000.
Candles are also a great addition. I recommend a primary focal candle with a symmetrical arrangement around it – straight line across a mantle, arc on the floor, two candles on the floor alongside the threshold at entrances/exits, a circle on a coffee table – can all work. Asymmetry draws attention – causing us to notice, to question, to try to figure out. We want to avoid that and stick with symmetry which will offer a sense of ease and comfort – a feeling that everything is in its place. This allows us to relax more fully.
Our sense of smell also affects us at a fundamental level. Who hasn’t noticed a familiar scent and been transported to a distant memory? Essential oils with a diffuser can be a great way to permeate a space with a pleasing fragrance and can be easily customized based on preferences and mood. We use lavender for its relaxing properties. Rose and sandalwood are also great options – even vanilla. Or mix your own – a fun project in and of itself! Incense is another great option.
Ambient sound is another crucial element. You could set the stage beautifully with all of the suggestions above, but if you live next to a busy highway or your neighbor breaks out the leaf blower, you’ll face a challenge. Double- and triple-paned windows can really help if you’re surrounded by distracting ambient noise – and there are sound absorbing fabrics that can also assist. Economical sculptural elements that create a small waterfall/running water sound are quite soothing and even sound machines can be useful in a pinch. Adding music is also an excellent option and a variety of different types (rhythmic, chanting, soft acoustic, yoga inspired, etc.) will contribute to a peaceful setting.
But if you live in a quiet or secluded place, then open the windows and doors and let the sound of the wind and the chirping of the birds envelop you. The natural connection will deepen your sense of calm and relaxation.
Perhaps most importantly, make this a technology free space – leave computers, TVs, phones and tablets well beyond earshot. Nothing distracts us and tempts us like the siren call of our gadgets. (If using your phone for meditation or yoga apps, then switch to Airplane mode to reduce interruptions.)
A) Exclusive Space
If a given space is reserved for quiet time, meditation, yoga, relaxation, etc. then your mind will begin to associate that space with those activities. As soon as you walk into that space each day, you’ll feel the shift. If you have an in-law cottage or a bonus room or a basement that you plan to convert and can designate it for just this purpose, it will help tremendously.
B) Add an Altar
Creating an altar is an emotional process and one that will forge an even stronger connection with the space that you are creating. If you have a personal relationship with God or your interpretation of the Divine, then it will make this space exponentially more powerful. It will make it sacred. An altar is not limited to any particular type of religion – or to religion at all, for that matter. It can be appropriate for anyone, if they are open to it.
An altar can be small, on a low table or on a mantle or tucked into a corner of the room. Or, if you’re inspired, it can expand as large as you like. For the religious, then an appropriate icon of God would be fitting for the centerpiece and other elements of your faith (a rosary for Catholics, mala beads for Hindus, a crucifix for all denominations of Christians, a Star of David for Jews, prayer flags for Buddhists, etc.). Candles, incense and other meaningful objets d’arte are appropriate. Framed photos of family and loved ones. Teachers/clergy/mentors who have been particularly impactful and influential are all wonderful to include. Sea shells, a smooth skipping stone from a family trip, a dried flower from a friend’s garden – really there is no limit beyond your own creativity. Anything that is meaningful and important to you is appropriate for your altar. Just sitting down in front of it to reflect on the richness of your life and how much you have to be grateful for can be both humbling and calming on many levels.
While not all of the above suggestions may be possible in your home or your situation, even adjusting only a few things can go a long way toward transforming a room and giving it a more welcoming feel for your yoga or meditation practice. In the end, focus on creating a clean, relaxed, comfortable space that will complement your practice. You’ll find it serves as a personal refuge from your daily concerns and helps take your personal practice to a deeper level.