Walking in through the doors of a dedicated yoga center transports your mind and body directly into that familiar yoga zone. The atmosphere palpably impacts your sense. The dim lighting calms the nervous system and provides an antidote to the perpetual blue glow of phones and mobile devices. Sanskrit chanting acts as a portal to a timeless past rooted in India’s rich history.
Incense wafts through the air and the smell ignites something within your subconscious. Each step into the yoga center seems to mirror the inner journey until you’re standing on your yoga mat, in the yoga room. And then, you’re ready to practice. You’re in the mood for yoga. That’s all well and good if you have the luxury of going to a yoga center for practice. But what about if you’re traveling and on a busy work schedule and all you have is your hotel room? Or, what if you need to practice yoga at home? It is possible to transform any room into your personal yoga sanctuary. There are some DIY methods to recreate the feeling of sacred space wherever you are. As a home yoga practitioner and a yoga teacher who travels and teachers, I practice at home and in hotel rooms almost all the time. It is a rare and happy occurrence when I find myself practicing yoga as a student in a dedicated class. I cherish those classes because they will me up! But, I’ve learned how to make any room into a space for spiritual practice. I’m sharing a few of my tips below. Feel welcome to adjust as needed and add your own tips in the comments below.
Ok this sounds basic, but it really makes a difference. If you’re unrolling your yoga mat in a small hotel room the first and perhaps most important thing you can do is to clean up a little. The same goes for shared spaces at home. If you’re thinking of making your living into a mixed-use yoga space, decluttering is crucial to give you peace of mind while practicing. The outer world is a reflection of the inner world and it will be exceedingly hard to relax and turn your mind inward when you’re surrounded by a mess. For a mixed-use shared home yoga room, try finding some furniture that doubles as storage. When you’re not using non-yoga items like toys, magazine, hats, or shoes, store them neatly away.
2. A Nice Shawl
This may be entirely personal, but I travel with a large shawl that I wrap myself in for meditation and lie under for final relaxation (called Savasana in many styles of yoga). This blue woven shawl comes from India and having this item with me brings a feeling of coziness and safety to wherever I am in the world. Yes, I realize I’m basically saying I carry the adult’s version of a blanket around the world in my suitcase. But it really helps create that feeling of sacredness for me.When I unpack in a new hotel room I take out my shawl and fold it up near the spot where I will practice and mediate. When you walk into any room at my home you’ll see blankets and shawls folded up and neatly kept over sofas, and most importantly, stacked in my home yoga room. If your yoga room is also doubling as your living room, try keeping a neatly shawls close by the area where you’re going to practice.
3. Mood Lighting
Changing the intensity of the light makes a big change in the feeling of a room. If you crack up harsh fluorescent lights it can feel jarring for the nervous system. Try installing dimmers in your home, or, even better, smart lights that can change both color and intensity. If your yoga room is also your home office, you might find that you like a pure white light during work hours, but prefer a soft white or even amber toned light for yoga and meditation. When I’m traveling there are not often dimmers available, let alone app-controlled smart light bulbs, so my next best solution is indirect lighting. If I’m going to unroll my yoga mat for practice and meditation near the bed, I’ll turn on a light in a different part of the room, preferably one with a lampshade. Or, sometimes I’ll leave the light in the bathroom on and partially close the door. It really depends on the hotel and the lighting. They key with lighting is to find the perfect balance between so dim so you feel sleepy and so bright so your nervous system is not able to calm down.
I love scented everything. Whether essential oils, scented candles, incense or good quality perfume. But that also means I’m really sensitive to smells. There is one scent that I’m very picky about when I’m about to practice yoga or sit for meditation—food. I’m sure you can imagine why. The last thing you want to be while practicing yoga or aiming for a deep meditation is to be hungry. Sometimes smelling food starts an automatic hungry reflex. Whether I’m at home or in a hotel room I clear out the surrounding scent with fresh air, either by opening the windows or turning on a fan. I make sure that all food items are stored properly and all dirty dishes are placed in the dishwasher or cleaned. Then, I’ll either light a scented candle, burn some incense or diffuse some essential oil. If I’m traveling and I don’t have an oil diffuser what can also work is to place a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball. Then place the cotton ball near the fan or AC vent.
5. Mat, Props and Cushions
While I travel with a shawl stuffed into my suitcase, I do not often travel with a full set of yoga accessories. If I’m traveling and teaching I often borrow a yoga mat. Some hotels have yoga mats in the gyms. But there is a really great trick for yoga in hotel rooms—use a big bath towel right on the carpeted floor. Don’t let not having a mat stop you from practicing while traveling. Using a big bath towel is about as big as a yoga mat and will give you good traction and cushioning. For a cushion, grab a pillow off the sofa, chair or bed. For props, be creative—instead of a block, use a book or a bottle. Instead of a bolster, use a pillow. For your home yoga room, there is no need to go out and purchase the full set of yoga accessories. Instead, think consciously about what tools you actually use in your practice. Then choose the ones that will truly assist your practice and keep them neatly stored in a designated area along with your yoga mat.
By Kino MacGregor
Kino MacGregor is a world renowned Ashtanga Yoga teacher, the author of several yoga inspired books, including The Yogi Assignment, and founder of OmStars.com. Practice the Ashtanga Yoga Full Primary Series online with Kino to get started on your journey today.