Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, known in the West as the father of Ashtanga yoga, famously said to his students, "Yoga is 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory." But as our daily obligations increase, enriching one's practice by attending class at a yoga studio has gotten more and more difficult — not to mention expensive.
Yoga practitioners all over the world have taken matters into their own hands by bringing their yoga practice home. You, too, can enrich your practice by creating your own yoga space in the house with just a few tweaks and additions that fit your budget and lifestyle. If you don't have the budget for a detached cabin or a separate yoga room, a basement corner or nook should suffice, so long as it can accommodate an unfurled yoga mat and your arm span. If you are planning to do inversions, at least one clear, unadorned wall space is needed.
Salute the Sun with Natural Light
An airy penthouse yoga room has all the elements of the most serene yoga studio: natural air purifiers by way of a potted plant, hardwood floors for more stable Sun Salutations and asanas (poses), white and warm tones, and most important, unadorned windows that let in plenty of natural light.
"For those that can have an entirely separate yoga space, I would recommend having access to plenty of natural light," agrees San Francisco Bay Area yoga instructor Charu Rachlis. "Ideally you want to face east or north when in the yoga room; both directions are considered auspicious for spiritual practice, not to mention that you might get to watch the sun rising from the space."
Feldman Architecture, Inc., original photo on Houzz
This Mill Valley, California, yoga cabin was part of a project that involved adding two cabins on a steep wooded site, with one cabin being used as a yoga studio. As you can see, the cabin has direct access to the surrounding vegetation and receives plenty of natural light. "We placed the yoga cabin right next to a beautiful grouping of redwood trees," principal architect Jonathan Feldman says. The client "wanted healthy materials and finishes (low- or zero-VOC) and natural materials: rustic wood, stone and warm paint colors," he adds.
More clients are requesting yoga studios, these days Feldman says. "People seem to want lots of light and a remote location where they can get away from the stresses of their busy lives."
Colorado yoga instructor Meg DePriest adds, "Your yoga space doesn't necessarily have to be 9 feet by 9 feet, as is popularly believed." Can you stretch out your arms and legs while lying on the ground without bumping into furniture? Can you go through Sun Salutations without having to restrict your movement? If so, then you have enough space for asana practice.
The temperature for your yoga room or space depends on your needs and preferences, but make sure the room is ventilated properly and can be warmed in winter.
John Kraemer & Sons, original photo on Houzz
Create a Separate Space
Devoting a separate space for yoga practice, no matter how big or small the area, is important in building your home yoga practice. There is something restorative about leaving the demands of our busy lives in a space "out there" and entering a space that is solely dedicated to healing, mindfulness and calm.
"For this project, the homeowners had always wanted a room specifically for yoga, so the space was actually designed into the plan and was not an afterthought," says residential builder Jonathan Kraemer, adding that it was designed exactly to his clients' specifications.
"The clients asked for cork floors, which are ecofriendly, comfortable and easy to walk on, durable and absorb sound well," says Kraemer.
You don't have to have much money to have an entirely separate yoga room. "You may not have a room that you can keep clear at all times for yoga," DePriest says. "In that case, each [time you practice], clear the same space that you'll be using and then light a candle to signify the transition from what that space was to what the space has become. It will help ground your yoga/meditation practice."
A reading nook or sitting area can easily transform into a yoga space if furniture can be moved against the wall to create more room for your yoga mat.
DePriest practices at home in a little alcove in her master bedroom, where she has a low table with books and incense, and floor space for her zafu (meditation pillow) and yoga mat. "I have one wall space free so I can do inversions. I love my home yoga space," she says.
Escale Design, original photo on Houzz
Don't be Afraid to Take It Outdoors
What many people don't know is that yoga is much more than poses and physical practice. "For me, yoga is also about sitting and meditating. The poses help you achieve strength and flexibility so that your sitting and meditation practice can be more comfortable. Anyone can practice yoga anywhere in the home. You work with what you have," says DePriest.
This picturesque view and surrounding landscape make for an ideal place to practice yoga; pranayama (breath work) is made easy with fresh air, and the heat from the sun's rays can help improve flexibility throughout one's practice. Just don't forget to wear sunscreen.
Set the Right Intent with a Grounding Object
It's important to have something that reminds you what your practice is aiming toward. "Have a visual totem that reminds you that the space and practice is for healing and relaxation: a flower, a statue, a picture that has spiritual meaning for you or a candle," says Rachlis, adding that it is "totally up to each person how to set up a room for yoga and meditation."
As with everything that has to do with yoga, use your intuition in deciding what feels sacred and what you want to have as part of your mindful space.