Visit any yoga studio and you'll likely see a space--usually front and center--filled with one or more of the following: candles, photo of B.K.S. Iyengar, print of various Hindu deities, statue of the Virgin Mary and/or Buddha, incense, sage stick, and Tibetan bells. When I first began my yoga practice, I thought all these accoutrements were props to knock over at best and pretentious New Age crap at worst.
Then I grew up and studied the philosophy of Yoga. And I realized that creating a sacred area wherever you are is more than the sum of its cluttered parts. It gives you a daily reminder to stop in your tracks and feel something spiritual. It also centers you by centering your focus. Practicing yoga or meditating at home can be a study in adult ADD; who hasn't stopped to answer the phone, clean a smudgy window or otherwise zone out? A house isn't a yoga studio; you don't have a teacher to guide your movements or a crowd of fellow yogis to pressure (every so gently) into staying on task.
Enter the home altar, which can be as subtle as a special photo framed on an otherwise blank wall or as full-blown as a low table covered in all the aforementioned accessories plus flowers and a pile of silk pillows. If you frequently entertain or just want to keep things private, you might opt for the former, but that doesn't mean you have to hide it. I like the idea of putting my spiritual life on blast in my apartment. For one thing, my apartment, my stuff. For another, it's an instant conversation starter, and when we have true, strong faith in something, it can feel nice to own it completely. Like, yes, I believe in this so much that I created my own little church right here in my living room.
What you put on or in your holy space should be totally unique to you, but it's nice to start with a few common pieces and then build. Mine features several candles, a cut crystal bowl for flowers, a book about depictions of the apocalypse in medieval religious art and and two matching silver chalices. On their own, nothing overtly religious (minus the book). As a vignette, the vibe is warm, reflective and reminiscent of an old-school Catholic or Episcopalian altar. I love it. I roll out my yoga mat in front of it; sometimes I sit cross-legged and meditate on a flickering candle flame; sometimes I just glance at it as I walk by. But it's always there: a soothing reminder of faith and devotion and discipline. Best part of bringing the altar home with you? Fewer early Sunday mornings--or at least the guilt of sleeping in.
Consider the following pieces when you create your holy space at home:
- a low, narrow table, the top of which hits at eye level when you're seated on the floor
- candles of various sizes, such as long tapered sticks and 3-inch pillars
- pretty candlestick holders that blend with your other decor but don't distract
- a couple good books that give you especial insight to your faith
- objets of your choice, such as a carved ivory Ganesha, a ceramic Virgin or the like
- a vase for flowers or a bowl of fruit