There is something to be said for the space in which we practice. Different spaces yield different experiences. We’ve all noticed the difference between an asana class in a loud gym and a class at a quite studio. We feel differently when we practice outside than we do when we are inside. So how about when you practice in a completely different space, say the Beluga whale exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta?
Participants in the classes enjoy the energy of the space, and teacher, Todd DeLaune, sees the effect as well, “I think the energy of the belugas corresponds with the practice that we do." So how much does the atmosphere of our practice space influence our practice? Maybe more than we realize. When we experience an asana class, we are purifying our bodies and minds, releasing toxins of all kinds. When we support this detoxification with a pure space, then we enhance our own experience. The opposite can be true as well. It is more difficult to find an experience of deep purification when the space in which we practice is heavy with physical, mental, or emotional toxins.
B.K.S. Iyngar states in Light on Yoga that asanas should be practiced in a clean and airy space, free from distractions. This requisite for practice is often sited as the reason that students cannot create a successful home practice. So, how do you create or choose a space conducive to practice. When choosing a class to attend, check out the space first. Notice the surrounding noises or distractions, be aware of its temperature, light, and overall feeling. If you feel anxious and distracted just visiting, there is a large chance you will find that energy in your practice as well.
At home, seek out a space that you can dedicate solely to your practice. Maybe you have an extra room that you can devote to your practice, but for the many that don’t, simply stake out a corner of your living space. Keep it clean (even when you are not practicing), and find a way to make it a sacred place all your own. Maybe you set up a small alter with a candle and other objects that are representative of your intention to come to your mat. If possible, leave your yoga mat on the floor and ready to receive you at any moment. To purify the space both before and after practice, you can burn incense or smudge the space with a sage bundle and open a window if weather permits. Try to keep your everyday worries and distractions away from your designated space, i.e. no computers or T.V.s or dirty dishes within view.
We purify ourselves to uncover what is sacred and pure within us, and we can reflect that in the way we attend to the space in which we practice. If watching and feeling the beauty of the graceful beluga whale supports your experience of beauty and grace, then by all means, practice with the whales. If you feel most alive when you are sitting on top of a mountain watching the birds spiral in the sky, then pack your mat on your next hike. Just remember that the space in which we choose to practice can be a valuable tool, as important to your experience as your yoga mat.
How has the environment or place that you practice in effected your yoga experience?