A Room of One’s Aum.

A fluffy how-to home decorating post, with a bit of a British literature lesson and some pedantic exploration of the Aitareya Brahmana thrown in just for fun.

I first read Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own during my undergraduate English degree years. It struck me as smart and powerful then, and continues to do so on the occasion of any full or partial re-read. Published in 1929, its title comes from Woolf’s contention that, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” In it, Woolf explores the societal limitations on women of her time and what she saw to be the requisite conditions for anyone to lead a life of creative endeavor, specifically the luxury of having enough time, space, and personal liberty to pursue said creativity.

Just as it is useful to have a room of one’s own when seeking to create art or literature, it is also useful to have a personal space when seeking to create one’s own authentic self through meditation and yoga practice. See what a clever bridge I just made there between Woolf’s idea and my how-to-make-a-yoga-space-in-your-home idea?!

Betty Compson doing yoga in 1923
What Virginia Woolf may have looked like in the 1920s if she had sought a yoga room of her own. (This is actually Betty Compson, an American actress, stretching in 1923.)
How To Create Your Own Home Yoga Space

As much as I love going to a yoga studio for an instructed class — and I don’t want to seem as if I’m undervaluing that at all — I also agree with Woolf’s fundamental premise that it’s awfully helpful to have a personal space of one’s own. Unlike Woolf, I don’t think it takes particularly all that much money to achieve such a space for practice. With some imagination and elbow grease, your yoga space could emerge (like a lotus from the mud) within a current living room, bedroom, hallway, closet, den, or office. Don’t rule out porches, attics, basements, garages or sheds, either!

Having recently created my own little yoga sanctuary, I thought I’d offer my insight about how it can be done, through a series of questions to ask yourself. They aren’t exactly zen koans, but you could meditate on each one for a bit before getting to work on your space, nonetheless.

  1. Indoor or Outdoor? This will depend largely on where you live and what sort of control you wish to have over the temperature & environment. It may also have something to do with your tolerance for insects. Living in Virginia and desiring the ability to heat or cool my space at will, I went with indoor. There’s certainly a lot to be said for an outdoor space (connecting with nature and all) if your climate allows it, and maybe if you have a screened porch.
  2. How Much Space Do You Really Need? Is it necessary to you to have an entire room for your practice, or would a corner of it do? Will it be just you practicing there, or do you need enough space for a significant other, children, friends? For the most part, you need enough space to roll out your mat and to be able to comfortably reach your arms out to the sides and up above your head.
  3. What Else Do You NEED? Take a moment to list just the absolute necessities: a mat, yoga blocks maybe…perhaps a yoga strap or scarf to help you stretch. If your flooring is very hard & unforgiving, you may want a rug or an extra-thick yoga mat.
  4. What Niceties Do You Already Have? Once you gather the must-haves, you can look around for what you may own to make the space even nicer for your practice. This could include artwork, figurines, candles, plants, cushions, yoga blankets or towels.
  5. Does It Need a Door? The answer to this will depend a lot on how much control you want of the temperature, light, and sound. It will also depend on how much privacy you desire…and whether you live alone, share space, or have pets/children that you’d like to keep out of the space during your practice. If it’s a shared space and you have the room, you may want to get a free-standing privacy screen. If there’s no door and you would like to keep dogs or toddlers at bay, would a pet/baby gate work?
  6. What Storage Do You Need? It’s nice to have someplace to stash all of the necessities and extras. That could end up being a basket or bin, a closet, some hooks or shelves — or a combination of those things. Maybe it’s just a corner out of the way somewhere.
  7. What’s Your Tolerance for Clutter? In general, yoga spaces should provide you with the ability to have a peaceful mind. You may need to tidy up and/or re-locate some things from the space you’ve chosen in order to create a calm, uncluttered, soothing space.
  8. What Frills Would You Like to Add? Over time, you  may add some other fun items to spruce up your space even more: dimming lights, a salt lamp and/or an aromatherapy diffuser, music (could just be your mobile device & a small bluetooth speaker), and maybe a screen (TV or computer) for using yoga videos. Bear in mind here: More is not necessarily better. Some of the best yoga spaces are extremely minimalistic (see my note about clutter, above).
  9. Do You Want To See Yourself? Some yogis like to include a mirror or multiple mirrors to check their postures, some prefer the stillness of not seeing their bodies…simply feeling each pose.

Once you’ve thought through your responses to these questions, setting up your space may simply be a matter of reimagining how you currently use a space you already have and moving around some furniture and/or decluttering. If you live with others, it’s probably a good idea to have a conversation with them about it first, too (though I didn’t…poor Fergus).

For inspiration (and to see the huge range of spaces people set up for themselves), just do a Google search for “home yoga space” (or, you know, click on that link). You’ll notice that some people spend a great deal of money and effort to create a true yoga sanctuary, while others find creative ways to carve out a nook for their practice in the most humble of spots in their homes, with the sparsest of stuff.

It’s important to realize, too, that a good yoga spot need not be a permanent fixture in your home. Once you’ve negotiated the space, you can make it versatile and multi-purpose (always helpful when having the conversation with those who share your home). The yoga space I recently created has just about all of the elements listed above (minus the salt lamp…yet), but can be quickly and easily cleared so that other people can use the same physical space when I am not practicing.

What does all of this have to do with aum?

I must give a hat tip to a 2008 article in Yoga Journal for preceding me in using the literary pun I’ve also used as my title for this post. I altered the spelling of aum from their use of om in order to more fully highlight the three phonetic components of the sound, supposedly discussed in section 5.32 of the Aitareya Brahmana in Rig Veda as corresponding to three stages of cosmic creation (I say supposedly because I must take it on good confidence, not being able quite to read sanskrit but being able to read this discussion of it in English).

This titular acknowledgement of the sounds’ trinitarian relationship to creation and creativity seemed most appropriate in connecting it to Woolf’s essay because when aum is pronounced or read, it is said to be a celebration of the creative powers of the universe. And you. The creative powers of you, I bow to. Have fun creating your own yoga space! Namaste.

[Photo of Virginia Woolf from this great article in Humanities Magazine].

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