Yoga is a mind-body activity you can do in a small space, on a tiny budget. And it doesn’t depend on the weather like other mind-body activities (think: running). So creating your own studio for build-a-better-me time makes sense.
If you already have a foundation in yoga, practicing solo is the best way to drop into yourself. If you’re an absolute newbie, head to classes for a while, so later you can enter your personal space knowing better what’s possible in it.
Sans your physical area, you can set yourself up for under $100. No doubt, some sticky mats cost that much – but you don’t have to break the bank. That said, if you can spend more somewhere in your budget, make a thick high-quality mat the priority.
Here’s what you need and why:
1. 5×8 feet of floor space
If you’ve got more than 40 square feet, terrific. But you need just enough room for your yoga mat and the movements you’d make beyond it. Be sure your space is clean and has no scent. A small room is ideal, but a closet or a corner of a room works too.
The jury’s out on whether carpet or hard surfaces are best. If you’ve got wonky knees or a bony back, carpet is a godsend. It also challenges you more in balance postures. Wood floors and the like are more popular though, providing a firm surface for balancing and gripping.
If you’re newer to yoga, you’re especially going to want your space to be quiet. Over time, you’ll learn to withdraw your senses from external stimulation, so silence will matter less.
2. The right vibe
Ambience counts. Create yours with:
Your altar should be only a foot or two high, so you can see it when you sit. Place it off to a side of your space. Create one with stacked wood, a box covered with cloth or anything along those lines. You decide what goes on it – as long as it’s stuff that anchors you to what happens when you’re in that space: stones, a feather or leaf, a small sculpture. If you’re looking for a note of vitality, include a plant.
Try this for personal studio flair: Place two vases or jars on your altar, and fill one with sand or salt. Each time you practice transfer some salt or sand to the empty vessel, until eventually it fills up. Then repeat the process, filling the other vessel. The idea is to mark your presence each time you’re in your studio and to acknowledge that everything changes.
3. Sticky mat
Your mat marks your space. It’s non-negotiable, even if your floor has plush carpet or you don’t do anything that requires padding.
Try this for personal studio flair: Keep a stack of 3×5-inch papers in your space. Each time you practice, beforehand write down an intention on one of the papers, along with the date. Keep that intention front-of-mind by placing it just ahead of your mat. After each session, put the paper in a designated space on your altar. Every few months, go through the papers and notice trends in your intentions.
1 yoga strap: Straps with buckles are easiest to use, but their metal ends will smack you if you’re not mindful.
Alternative: a tie, long scarf or thick ribbon. They generally don’t have the right thickness or grippy texture, but they’re better than nothing.
2 yoga blocks: Light foam blocks tend to work best because they’re gentle when placed against your body’s weight.
Alternative: weighted shoeboxes. Fill them with balled-up paper then tape them closed. You won’t be able to bear down on them, but they will support your hands for balance poses. You could also try a book, but it’s clunky to move around and works safely at just one height.
2 towels or small blankets: Beach and body towels are a good size. Additional yoga mats work too. You want something you can roll and fold. If you’ve got a traditional yoga blanket, great, but it’s not requisite.
Essential oils: Some people love essential oils. Put them in a diffuser to take in a scent throughout your practice. Or place drops on your wrists or temples at the start or end of practice. Keep in mind that some scents will spring you to alertness (peppermint), while others have signature calming effects (lavender).
Yoga mat towel: If you expect to practice in heat or you sweat a lot, a yoga mat towel can help enormously. It’s also a good way to keep your mat in tip-top condition because it’s easier to wash than the mat itself.
Interested in the benefits of meditation? Learn how your home yoga studio can also become your personal meditation space.
Mitra Malek, a former Yoga Journal editor, has taught yoga regularly since 2006. Connect with her at mitramalek.com.