It’s early. The sun is just coming up, and the house is quiet. While the rest of the family is still in bed, Julie Greenberg opens the French doors to what was once her home office and enters a tranquil, candlelit space where a red yoga mat awaits her. Alone, Greenberg stands at the top of her mat, takes a deep breath, notices the faint scent of incense in the air around her, and begins her morning Ashtanga practice. “Here I always have a place to go and no schedule to adhere to—just my own, ” she says. “The emptiness of the room brings me out of my head and puts me into my body. I love having access to my yoga practice 24-7.”
Greenberg is among a growing number of yogis who have created a dedicated space for practicing yoga and meditation at home. A few have built a true studio space; some have converted an extra bedroom; and others have created a soothing sanctuary in the corner of a room.
Regardless of the approach, making physical space at home for your practice can have a profound effect on your life. With a yoga room of your own, an hour to practice means you can spend the whole hour actually practicing. You won’t be skipping yoga because there’s no time to get to a studio or spending precious minutes rearranging furniture in order to have space to unfurl your mat. A designated yoga area can also help you cultivate awareness; as you practice in the same spot day after day, you will begin to notice how the light shifts in different seasons, how your body feels on different days, how your mind greets the same space with new thoughts. With this new awareness and privacy, you may even discover the freedom to evolve and become your own best yoga teacher.
Fundamentally, dedicating space to your practice is a way to acknowledge your commitment to yoga. You are literally making room for it in your life. “You’re bringing it home, ” says Gordon Johnson, a retired lawyer in Corte Madera, California, who has transformed his living and dining rooms into a yoga studio. “A yoga room supports you and your practice unconditionally. It gives you the opportunity to practice every day—it’s a commitment to developing your practice.”
Design Within Reach
It wasn’t until a major water leak damaged her Los Angeles home office that Greenberg began envisioning the yoga room she has today. “Once we took everything out and it was empty, there was no turning back, ” she says. Greenberg then began to imagine a beautiful altar where the desk and computer once stood, hardwood floors instead of carpet, candles and mirrors where the office supplies used to be, and nothing more. Simple and warm, stylish and peaceful. “It represents the nothingness I was looking for, ” she says.
Not everyone has an extra room, but, really, any space will do. “Big or small doesn’t matter, ” says Jagatjoti S. Khalsa, a Los Angeles based yoga room designer and author of Altar Your Space. “Appreciate what you have, and sometimes your home offers you a corner or an area of another room.”
Whether you are working with a space slightly larger than a mat or the most expansive room in your house, Khalsa suggests clarifying your intention for the area—and taking a judicious approach to decorating. You might put your mat in front of a window shaded by a tree to remind yourself to stay connected with the seasons and leave the rest of the space empty, free of distractions. Or you might create an altar to anchor your eye as well as your mind and soften the area with meditation pillows, fresh flowers, and a statue of a deity. “Give the room all the tools that will serve you for what you want to do in it, ” advises Khalsa, a Kundalini yogi. “And always design to express yourself, not to impress others.”
The costs, of course, will vary greatly, depending on whether you are building, remodeling, or redecorating. It’s possible to spend as little as nothing, Khalsa says, by clearing out furniture and outfitting the area with basic props and something soothing to gaze at while you practice, such as a framed print or your own drawing or photograph.
The simple approach was where Johnson started. Not long after being introduced to yoga and meditation in 1984, he began inviting his teachers and friends to practice together in his home. For a while, Yin Yoga teacher Sarah Powers and her family lived at Johnson’s place in a separate cottage and, along with other teachers, taught regular community classes in his house, known as Deer Run Zendo.
One weekend in 1998, Johnson and Ty Powers, Sarah’s husband, removed the living room furniture, which opened up a lot more space for yogis and meditators. (Before that, they would move the furniture to the periphery of the room to clear an area in which to practice.) Next went the dining table and chairs. Later the heavy cabinets that divided the dining and living rooms were torn down to create an 800-square-foot yoga studio overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The hardwood floors were already in place, as were the cozy fireplace and hearth. The only thing left to do was replace the books on the built-in shelves with mats, straps, blocks, and blankets.
“We don’t have a dining room or living room anymore, ” Johnson says. “We have two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen—and a yoga studio in the middle of it all. Sometimes we use meditation mats and chairs to sit and eat.” Eventually, with the help of a friend, Johnson built an altar using wood reclaimed from the removed cabinets.
“This room, this house, and all of the teachers that have come here have supported my practice unconditionally, ” Johnson says. “And I like to think that I’ve been able to support them. This room is a blessing.”