Yoga at home: Creating a space of your own

Create a space for your yoga workout that can help support the spirit of your desire to improve your physical fitness, mental and emotional well-being, and spiritual connectivity. The space should be an optimal setting for the ritual of the practice of yoga and should be as spacious and free of clutter and distractions as possible. However, you must work within the space that you have available and do so in harmony with your family and pets so that everyone in your household can easily respect and support your desire to practice yoga at home.

Physical space. To practice yoga all you really need is a yoga mat and a clean, quiet space. For some this space may be an entire room dedicated to yoga and meditation, complete with props, blankets, bolster, straps, block, and cushions. For others it may simply be the space next to the bed or between the couch and coffee table.

In general you should have enough room for the length of the yoga mat and enough room to the sides to take the arms and legs out wide without hitting anything. Regardless of its size or location, find a way to make this space special for you.

Reduce any clutter in the area to cultivate a sense of calm within yourself. Some people enjoy creating a sacred space with devotional items and pictures of loved ones or teachers. Whatever your beliefs, feel free to create a personal altar that gives you peace and inspires and reflects your inner spirit.

In warmer climates or during summer months, try taking your yoga mat outside onto a deck or into a garden and enjoying the morning sun close to nature.

No matter where, how big, or how small it is, make your yoga space special, reflecting deep commitment to yourself and your well-being. I have often found that once we begin yoga practice we develop a deeper connection to our surroundings. This connection will inherently inform our choices in how we live, often gravitating toward less clutter. In this way our external environment reflects our inner calm.

Air and light. If possible, choose an area with fresh air and morning light. Plants and flowers are nice too. A space full of natural light allows us to absorb and benefit from the morning sun. Fresh air and plants provide a connection to nature and an environment rich in fresh oxygen. Light, air, and a connection to nature are good for the spirit and conducive to a fully uplifting experience that, in combination with endorphins released during the workouts, can help alleviate symptoms of depression.

If you have limited access to light or fresh air in your available space, I suggest getting an air purifier to ensure that the air you breathe is free of harmful environmental toxins. For an artificial source of light you can easily and cheaply purchase ultraviolet lamps or bulbs, which provide a beneficial spectrum of light that can also serve as a light source for growing plants, thus infusing the space with a naturally rich source of oxygen and an essential connection to nature.

If the space is overly noisy, you can purchase a nature-sounds machine or a small artificial waterfall, both of which can dampen external noise and give you a deepened sense of a naturally relaxing environment.

Music. Some people enjoy light music, whereas others find it a distraction. Either is fine, depending on your mood. Just be sensitive that the music does not interfere with your connection to the breath and body by drawing your attention outward to external stimuli. Often I refrain from using music so that I can bring my focus inward to the body, breath, mind, and spirit. But at times playing music is light and fun and helps create an atmosphere conducive to a relaxed but engaging morning yoga workout. I suggest using music that uplifts your spirit, depending on your personal taste.

Experiment with both using and not using music during your yoga workout and allow your state of mind to dictate whether or when (and what kind of) music will best help you create an atmosphere conducive to enjoying your daily yoga ritual.

Do refrain from types of music that overwhelm your ability to stay connected to body, mind, and spirit by being overly abrasive or stimulating. Yoga is different from cardio workouts in that the breath, not the music, should drive the pacing of the movements within the workout itself. If your available practice space has external noise that can be disruptive, music can help create an environment more conducive to a satisfying yoga practice.

Once we choose an area that is spacious, clean, and quiet, with natural light and fresh air, we need to have some basic equipment on hand for the practice of yoga exercises. One of the many things I love about yoga is its simplicity. To do yoga it is not necessary to have much in the way of space or equipment. But we do need just a few things to support our practice. The following is a basic yoga prop list:

Yoga mat. This is the most essential item on the list. The yoga mat is where all the magic happens. There are many yoga mats on the market to choose from. I suggest looking at a few and determining which thickness and texture feels right for you. Substituting a general exercise or Pilates mat is not an ideal option because of the need for the appropriate length and stickiness that allow us to grip the mat and hold certain postures without slipping. Mats can range in price anywhere from $20 to $60, depending on the brand, the thickness, and the material from which the mat is made. For some people, buying a yoga mat made of environmentally degradable material is a priority. For others, the important factors may be price, comfort, or color. Mats are easy to care for. Every few weeks, simply wash the mat in a machine with soap and water. You can tumble dry it or hang it to dry, depending on the material from which it is made.

Mexican blanket. A Mexican blanket is the second prop for a morning yoga workout. The blanket is essential for support in kneeling, lying, seated, and inverted postures to protect the spine, joints, and connective tissues from injury as a result of the pressure of the hard surface of the mat and the floor.

Cushion. In addition to the Mexican blanket, I suggest purchasing a cushion or zafu (or even a chair, if necessary) for seated meditation and pranayama. It will allow you a comfortable base of support so that you can sit upright easily and avoid discomfort of the hips, sacrum, and lower back.

Wooden or foam block. One or two wooden or foam blocks are extremely useful for providing a higher base of support in challenging and adapted yoga postures. Wooden blocks are heavy and sturdy, whereas foam blocks are lighter but tend to hug the surface of the floor or mat more easily.

Strap. I suggest purchasing a yoga strap for assisting standing, sitting, and lying yoga asanas and stretches so that you can fully experience the physical and energetic expression of the pose while progressing to a level of experience at which the use of a strap is no longer necessary.

From Morning Yoga Workouts by Zack Kurland.
Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order at or by calling 1-800-465-7301.