Where to Begin

Setting Up a Practice Space at Home

So, you’re ready to start practicing yoga. Or maybe you’ve already started, took a break, and are ready to start again. Wherever you are on your journey, that’s where you begin.

It’s likely you’ve heard about the many benefits of a yoga practice - flexibility, strength, stress reduction, relief from chronic aches and pains, better sleep - the list goes on and on. 

You’ve also likely seen images on social media of slender women in pretty yoga clothes smiling as they contort their bodies into shapes not readily found in nature and reminiscent of something out of Cirque du Soleil. You know what I mean - legs folded unnaturally on top of one another or wrapped behind the yogi’s head. Shapes that make your joints ache just looking at them!

Is it just me or do the benefits being touted seem juxtaposed to the images on social media? How can putting your legs behind your head reduce stress or relieve back pain? This got me thinking: I’ll bet there are thousands of men and women out there who are wondering the same thing. They’re looking for yoga designed for someone who might not be a slender woman … or have (or want!) extreme flexibility … or who doesn’t want to get all hot and sweaty but also doesn’t want yoga that’s so slow they fear nodding off midway through the class. Does such yoga exist?

Yes, it does! And whether you live in a big city, small town or somewhere in between, you can find the yoga you envision. And I’m going to help you.

This month’s theme is “Where to Begin”. Each week in July I’ll share some tips and ideas for how to begin your yoga practice:

> How to create a practice space in your home (even if you live in a tiny house or apartment)

> What yoga “props” are and how to use them

> Some common terms you’re likely to hear in a yoga class and what they mean

> Some simple movements to get you started.

So, here we go!

Setting Up a Practice Space

How much space do I need?

Probably not as much as you think. Yoga is a portable practice and most of the movements are done within the confines of a yoga mat, typically measuring 6’ X 2’. Your practice space need only be slightly longer than your height when you reach your arms overhead and slightly wider than the distance between your fingertips when your arms reach out to the sides. 

For most, a space roughly 8’ X 6’ should suffice, assuming that it’s not a walled space, like a closet. If you live in a large home, you may be able to dedicate an entire room to yoga. But most of us have to create temporary spaces that can be set up when we practice and put away when we’re through.

Your task - find a space in your home to practice. Get creative! I have students who practice on their kitchen floor or in the nursery or in the living room. Sure, you might have to move a coffee table or roll up a rug. But you’ll find it’s worth the effort.

It doesn’t feel very special doing yoga on the kitchen floor!

OK. So you’ve found a space in your home to practice. Maybe it’s not perfect, but what in life is? Next, you need to make the space feel sacred or special. 

Think of it this way. All year long you eat at the dining room table. Paper napkins, everyday flatware and dishes, nothing special. But on Thanksgiving you pull out all the stops to make that everyday table something special. Fancy colorful linens, a floral arrangement, Grandma’s fine china and sterling silver, crystal goblets. With just a few additions the dining room is a sanctuary and the meal, an event! When it’s over, everything gets put away until next time.

Actually, for many families preparing the dining room for the meal is a ritual that’s a big part of the celebration. Make your yoga practice a celebration of you! Pull out all the stops and make it something to look forward to, not something to dread.

Your task - make your space sacred. Here are some ideas.

Gather a few items that are special to you: a shell or stone from a vacation; a family picture; a small plant or flower in a bud vase. Items that hold a special place in your heart and that bring you joy when you look at them. Add a cloth (plain or fancy, your choice) on the floor or draped over a box to create something like an altar. Arrange your items in a way that looks good to you. This “altar” will be at the front of your practice space. Find a box or basket to store these items when you’re not practicing. 

But the phone, the kids, the dog!

Your space is set up, there’s quiet music playing, you’re on your mat settling in when … “Mom, can I have something to drink?” “Woof-woof! You’re on the floor. You must be down here to play with me!” “Honey, have you seen my brown socks?”

Interruptions! How can you practice yoga with all those interruptions? Rule #1: make your yoga time as sacred as your yoga space. Believe it or not, the world will not come to a grinding halt if you’re unavailable for 30 minutes (hard to believe, I know!). 

Here are a few ideas to help keep your time sacred:

Make a sign. Make it fancy on the computer or scribble it with crayon on a piece of scrap paper. Craft a message that conveys that you are unavailable and are not to be disturbed. Maybe “Doing Yoga - Come Back Later” or “Finding my center. Unless you have it, come back later.” or “This file is temporarily unavailable due to a system update. Please check back later.” You get the idea. Be creative!

Family meeting. Lovingly tell your family that you need their support and ask that they not disturb you when the sign is in place. Discuss “Plan B” options - what to do if they need something and you’re not available.

You’ll still be interrupted. Face it; life is messy. Despite your best efforts, your practice will still be interrupted from time to time. So if the dog or baby wants to practice with you, let them (do a YouTube search and you’ll find plenty of videos of pets interrupting home yoga practices). It’s all part of the practice.

Your task: Create your “Do Not Disturb” sign and have a family meeting.

Well, I think that’s enough to get you started. Follow me on Facebook for more ideas and tips for getting started with your practice. There will even be a post where you can share a picture of your sacred yoga space. 

Next Week: Yoga Props - what you need and how to use them.

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