Friday, February 18, 2011
A Yogic Room of One's Own
In my college days of more then twenty years ago, I was quite enamored by Virginia Woolf. One of my favorites was her A Room of One's Own, a feminist text in which she expounded on the conception that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
I've been thinking of Woolf and her idea of having "a room" in the last few months, but not in terms of writing fiction (I guess I already have that room if you consider my office.) Instead, I have been considering Woolf's dictum in relation to my yogic practice.
As those of you who have been following my blog know, I made a commitment to try to practice yoga every day two years ago. Many days I'm only doing the Ashtanga "minimum" of 3 Surya Namaskara A & B and the three seated closing postures which takes only ten minutes, but many days do have longer practices.
Of course, a daily yoga commitment pretty much means I can't get to the Shala every day. For quite a while I was simply rolling out my mat in either my bedroom or living room and practicing.
I found this, however, to be distracting. Instead of focusing on my breath or bandhas I was usually obsessing about things such as the laundry sitting on my bed that needed to be folded, or the ashes in the fireplace that needed to be cleaned out.
Another problem was that I was usually interrupted by my husband or kids--particularly if I was trying to do a longer practice. I also had to wait until a room was empty to practice, which limited the times when I could practice. The end result was that while I'd from time to time stick with the daily practice routine, daily practice was more of a goal then a reality.
Last summer, however, the clean-up bug hit me. We had a basement playroom, which in recent years had become nothing more than an abandoned toy repository and holiday decoration storage. The kids hadn't gone down there in years, and it slowly but surely filled up with junk.
So one day I decided that enough was enough, and started sorting and lugging stuff out of there. In between trips out to the car to load up for a trek to Good Will, it hit me--the old play room would be a perfect at home yoga practice studio.
Suddenly my cleaning had a purpose, and I found myself even more willing to part with Thomas the Tank Engine and Barbie paraphernalia in my quest to create yogic space.
At first I practiced with the room as is--a child-friendly primary paint color scheme and open shelving displaying boxes of Christmas ornaments, fabric pumpkins and an odd assortment of games which my family actually still plays from time to time.
This worked for a few months, and I found that just by having a dedicated space, my incidence of practicing at home went up. I didn't have to wait for someone to clear out of the bedroom or living room to practice, but could just roll out my mat whenever the mood struck and go. Plus, because it was out of the way, it was less likely that I was interrupted by husband or kids (although there's really no getting away from them is there?
Soon, however, I found I wanted a more "yogic" contemplative atmosphere. Bright red and white walls with giant Stop and other traffic signs for some reason just wasn't setting the right tone.
So a couple of weeks ago, I got out the paint brushes, and, after some color experimentation, repainted the room in two shades of plum. To hide the various holiday decorations, games, etc. on the open shelving (and to create a calmer atmosphere) I installed a curtain rod with ivory shower curtains which slide easily in front of the open shelves.
I've posted a picture of my personal yogic room above so that you can see the results. It still needs some artwork, and maybe a nicer bench to hold the candle, but what do you think?
Here's what I've found about creating my personal yoga studio:
First, I'm practicing more. Once I had the dedicated space, I came much closer to my goal of daily practice, and once I "yogified" the room, the lengths of my home practices increased as well.
Second, I'm less distracted and focused in my practice. When I was in my bedroom or living room, I was always glancing around and noticing stuff that had to get done.
The room has been particularly beneficial with all the snow, kids being sick etc. this year. If I can't get to the Shala, I just head to my yoga room, roll out my mat. Today my daughter was home sick, so I couldn't get to my usual Friday Ashtanga Primary series class, but I did practice for a full hour at home.
Plus, as I tell myself, if I ever sell the house, the space no longer looks like a giant junk storage room, but an actual usable space. Home gym anyone?
And, since I'm close to getting my teacher certification from the Yoga Alliance, I know have a space in the house that I can use if I want to teach private yoga instruction.
It's not perfect. For one thing, since it's a basement, it's a bit colder then I'd like for yoga. I've brought down a space heater, but in the future, I may want to explore options for providing more heating.
Most of us live in homes with limited space, so carving out dedicated space for our work-outs is tough. But I think if we are creative, we can find space for ourselves, and by finding space for ourselves, our willingness and desire to work-out can go up.
This basement space was sitting there in my house for years, basically unused and collecting clutter. A little cleaning out, painting and effort created a home yoga studio.
So look around and see what you can find.