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Creating a sacred space


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.


                                                            AUM SHANTI Edit

Derek`s kudhil - yoga room
in the gold and silver garden

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