Creating Your Sacred Space
When we speak of `sacred` we do not restrict that to a religious context.
Your sacred space is that environment which you create around yourself, and in which you can focus on your yoga. That space may be a designated room or area out of doors. It might simply have to be the area in which you can lay down your mat, wherever you are at the time.
The Bhagavad Gita gives us a little guidance, telling us in Chapter 6, to find a place that is
quiet and clean or pure, with a seat that is comfortable (neither too high nor too low) and sit on a mat, or kusha grass or
an animal skin. The Gheranda-Samhita suppies some details for the placing
and construction of the yogi`s hermitage or kutira. It should be in a
good location, an area free of conflict. Within the enclosure should be a well
or pond. The hut should be smeared with cow dung, to be free of insects, and
be neither too high nor too low. The Hatha-Yoga -Pradipika suggests the
hut should have no windows, and only a small door. The yogins dwelling can also
be called mandira
Ideally our sense of yoga is not something which is restricted to the time that we are doing our exercises,
pranayama or meditation. It is ALL the time we live. Then it becomes interesting, and important to think about HOW we live generally, our home and work environment,
and even the choices we make as to where we spend our leisure time. In fact we
will find that the basic elements are common to all.
The place: The Gita tells
us to find a place that is away from the noises and distractions of ordinary life. Not
easy in today`s world. In ancient times the yogi would leave places of habitation
and go into the forest to live. At home a room where you will be undisturbed,
even a shed in the garden, can be your place. It may be that you have to settle
for just using a particular part of a room, sharing it with the rest of the family and the TV.
Even then it is possible to make it sacred.
Although many of us now live in urban areas it is still possible to create small spaces in the garden
where we are not overlooked, or get out of town and find a secluded woodland clearing, or patch of waste land, where you will
be undisturbed. As a boy growing up in Derbyshire I would cycle up into the Peak
District, and found such a place which became my hideaway, where I could read for hours on end as I lay in the sun.
The air we breath. Wherever
we are we breath. With each breath we take in the negative and positive ions
in the air, the perfumes, pollutants, smoke and dust in the atmosphere. The air
is richest in negative ions (the good ones) where the air is moving in the wind, and by running or falling water, streams
waterfalls and the edge of the sea. Positive ions (the bad ones), the ions which
cause us to feel tired and under par, become prevelant where the air is static, both outdoors and inside, and loaded with
other pollutants. Even in the villages of the high Himalayas the air is often
acrid with the stench of diesel fumes and wood smoke. That pollution is obvious. Less obvious is the air in many modern offices and workplaces, and homes, where chemical
pollutants are released by plastics and other materials.
Even if we go out of doors we may still be exposed to petrol and diesel fumes from nearby roads, central
heating boilers and other sources. In the end we have to compromise and find
what is the best available, and where possible improve the air as much as we can, perhaps using ionisers which can be bought
quite easily. They are designed to emit negative ions into the atmosphere in
front of them. Have an open window if posible, or good ventilation, but remember
that it is important to keep the space comfortably, and safely, warm
Temperature: A room which
is too hot or cold is not conducive to comfortable pratice or meditation. Radiant
heat may be more comfortable than convected heat. The important factor is the
ambient temperature: the feel of the room in relation to that outside. It should
be comfortable enough to practise your exercises naked, throwing a blanket or
cover over your body for relaxation or meditation. Avoid being in open intense
sunlight for prolonged yoga practice. It is tiring.
The surface: The Gita simply
says your space should be clean. If you have a designated room, then keeping
it clean will be a part of your karma (the yoga of action duty and work) yoga sadhana (the path of life leading to `realisation`). Always sweep or clean your sacred space. In
public places that might include clearing cigarette ends and other rubbish from around your area. For yoga asanas the floor needs to be firm and level. It may
seem romantic to do your yoga on the edge of the sea, until you discover how the tide pulls the sand from under your feet. Tussocky grass, sharp stones and of course slopes all have their own problems.
To begin with creating your sacred space may be just a practical way of preparing a place where you can
most effectively practice your yoga exercises. In time it will become unthinkable
to try doing your yoga without those preparations. As that habit becomes ingrained
it is likely that you will begin to extend that attitude more widely. You will
begin to adopt the same standards in your home, workplace and community. Feng
Shui is well known, the Indian alternative - Vaastu - less so. Both are
concerned with the practical ways in which we can adapt our external environment for our benefit. Perhaps even more importantly you will begin to be aware of the inner changes which are taking place, how
you view your body, and how you care for that.
There is a phrase from the ancient yoga writings - The Upanishads- which states: `What you see,
you become`. The space around you might indeed mirror your inner state. Create order, balance, simplicity tidiness, cleanliness and beauty in the world around
you, and you will find it being created within yourself.