As your home practice deepens and unfolds, you may find yourself developing rituals and designating a special space for your mat or meditation cushion. You might have even noticed that when you practice in the same spot repeatedly, you begin to charge the space with a unique vibration. Just as a yoga studio has a special something in the air, the place where you come to honor and connect with yourself becomes imprinted with the energy of your efforts.
As the energy becomes more palpable, it’s natural to want to adorn your space with images and objects that inspire you. Not only is their presence calming, but they offer a visual reminder to return to your mat and stay on your path. That’s why many yogis choose to create altars in their practice space. An altar provides a place to focus your intentions, then feel them reflected back to you. It serves as a sacred and ever-present reminder of what you’re working toward.
When creating your altar, you’ll want to find a space you can set aside just for this purpose, just for you. It might be a corner of your bedroom, a single shelf, or a small tabletop. You can place any objects that call to you on your altar, from dried flowers and crystals to images of teachers and loved ones. Traditionally, a yoga altar would also include representations of the five elements, as a way of connecting with the natural world, both within and around you.
Yes, you read that last part correctly! The yogic system recognizes five elements, not four. It’s important to honor them, not only because they are the building blocks of everything that surrounds us, but also for the unique internal qualities they help us cultivate. Read on for a brief explanation of each element, along with ideas for including them on your own altar.
Grounding, centering, and calming, the earth element is associated with the root chakra and can be represented by a flower, plant, or crystal of some kind.
The water element encourages resilience, non-attachment, and empathy, and is connected with the sacral chakra. It is traditionally represented by a vase or bowl of water, but you might also consider using a simple essential oil or rosewater mist.
Kindle your confidence, creativity, and drive with the fire element, which resides in the solar plexus chakra. You might light a candle or represent it symbolically with the “flameless” variety if you can’t have an open flame. Since fire is also used for purification, many yogic practices involve its invocation.
The air element lives in the heart chakra and brings clear communication, self-expression, and curiosity. You may find this surprising, but when incense is burned on an altar, it’s not actually for the smell. Instead, the smoke provides a visual reminder of the presence of this more subtle element.
Yoga’s fifth element doesn’t have a good translation, but we call it space, ether, or “Akash.” The container for all the other elements, space is the source of stillness, freedom, wisdom, and potential. Because it’s perceived through sound, on a classic yoga altar it’s represented by a bell. That’s why this element lives in the throat chakra, which includes both the throat that makes sound and the ears that receive it.
Through intention and practice, what is simply a collection of beautiful objects can become a sacred space. Remember that there are really no rules, and whatever your intuition guides you to place on your altar can have incredible potency. The most important thing is to develop a ritual around your altar, whether that means meditating in front of it in the mornings, gazing at it during your asana practice, or spending a few quiet moments in daily devotion.
From treasured objects to must-have props—what makes you feel ready to practice?
Show us how you set up your personal space by posting a photo or video on your Instagram feed or Stories and be sure to tag @yogaglo and use the hashtag #WhereIGlo
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