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Home Yoga Retreat

Me in my yoga "studio"

I’ve been working on a little project. And no, the project isn’t “How to take really shitty iPhone photos and then Photoshop them to death because you can’t correct the color.” The project I’m talking about is “How to turn that spare room into a yoga retreat while you can still enjoy it, i.e., before said room and your life are completely overrun by your hypothetical future progeny.”

I feel incredibly lucky to have the mythical, Virginia Woolf room of my own. The problem is that computing alone is lonely, and it’s annoying to have to shout taunts all the way across the hall while gaming with my boyfriend. The gaming station set up near his desk has increasingly become my all-around computing, blogging and working-from-home station. Filled with dusty knickknacks and piles of junk mail, my room lay abandoned, much like my couch after I realized how much Caprica sucked. (Incidentally, I was not surprised to hear it had been canceled.)

Anyway, I had recently signed up for classes at my favorite local yoga studio when I ran across the blog Sweet Tater, specifically the post Yoga with Cats, written by Katie, who “accidentally” lost 25 pounds by doing loads of yoga and eating well.

I thought back to my Bikram yoga experiment, where I got 20 days of yoga for $20 and went almost every day. I could understand how effective a long-term, near-daily practice could be. But I don’t want to be stuck with Bikram’s 26 poses and pushy instructor style, and I can’t really afford unlimited yoga classes elsewhere. This leaves doing yoga as a home practice.

I’ve certainly done enough yoga to feel confident having a home practice. There are just a few catches. First of all, my cat attacks me whenever I’m in downward dog. Secondly, practicing on carpet doesn’t let me ground my hands and feet enough to be comfortable on my totally whacked-out programmer’s wrists. Thirdly, my house runs cold and I’m a wuss, so I’m generally miserable when I try to do yoga in the kitchen, which is the only tiled room in my house that doesn’t have any toilets. Also, the kitchen usually smells like those Ling-Ling potstickers you can get in bulk from Costco. Not very zen.

My room has a door, which would repel the felines, and I have a great little space heater. So how do I get around the carpeting issue? New flooring is not an option.

The first thing I tried was emailing YogaToday to find out if I could purchase those neato platforms their instructors use in their videos. Nerp, custom-built. I looked into making my own platform, but the only power tool I own is a drill. Then I had a crazy idea. What about a single, solitary tatami mat?

Tatami mat

Eureka! In fact, tatami mats are used in Japanese aikido studios both because it’s very traditional and because they’re firm yet springy. They’re several inches thick, with a compacted rice straw core and a woven rush straw exterior. Most tatami mats are a very specific size which isn’t quite long enough to accommodate a yoga mat, but I discovered that some platform beds are built to have custom-sized tatami mats set in the frame rather than wooden slats. A queen-sized platform bed takes two “queen-sized” tatami mats, which happen to be several inches wider and longer than a standard yoga mat.

Unfortunately, they weigh about 60 pounds, so shipping is rather expensive. Fortunately, there is a shop a few miles away from my house called Futon-Ya that carries them, so I could avoid the shipping by picking it up myself.

Makeshift yoga station

So there you have it! I disassembled the Ikea desk that took up the majority of the room, threw out a few bags of junk, tried to hide enough of my clutter that it wouldn’t distract me from my vinyasa, and set my laptop up on a couple of boxes covered with some fabric originally intended for window curtains.

It feels heavenly. I can get a good, firm grip in down dog. And it’s pretty easy to prop up against the wall or in the closet to temporarily get it out of the way. I can do yoga freestyle, or try the YogaToday free weekly video, or a podcast like Elise’s Yoga Kula. Tonight I did YogaToday and actually got into a headstand! Which is something I thought my shoulders were too tight for, but I’m now starting to suspect was more like me being a wuss in group class.

And, you know, since tatami mats are traditionally an everything kind of surface, I guess I could always get one more queen-sized tatami mat and a queen-sized futon and call my yoga studio a spare bedroom. 😉

Do you work out, practice yoga or meditate at home?
How do you make your space conducive for your activity?

8 thoughts on “Home Yoga Retreat

  1. I love yoga, but I have a lot of trouble trying to develop a consistent home practice (and not just because my dog and cat both practice downward dog right under me the whole time). I actually have an “office” – I don’t know why I don’t use it for this purpose. I love going to the studio – I am off my unlimited plan so now I am going a lot less, but I’ve decided I am going to start another month of unlimited in the next few weeks, and just try to take one-two weeks to do more home practice in between my unlimited months.

    1. I think it can be hard to use a space for both work and something as meditative as yoga. Like, how could you concentrate on pranayama when you can see your inbox out of the corner of one eye?

      I try to grab good yoga packages at the studio whenever they’re running promotions, and I also try to take advantages of the half-price community classes and the occasional free classes they have on holidays. I don’t think I’d keep up with a home practice very well without outside input in the form of an actual class once in a while!

      The main thing I’m liking about having a space to do yoga at home is the flexibility. Last night I worked super late and missed the yoga class I wanted to go to, so I came home and did a yoga videocast instead.

  2. It’s been so long since I’ve taken a yoga class. I love them. I have DVDs but I find they are either too easy or hard enough that I want someone watching me do the poses before I do them on my own because I’m concerned about injury. I do not have a spare room (or spare room in the bedroom which is the only room, save our tiny bathroom, with a door). My cats go crazy when I do any sort of exercise, trying to play with me, get me to rub their bellies or chasing my shadow. Plus they think my yoga mat is a scratch pad. Awww, kitties.

    1. Yeah, I know what you mean. I got into headstand at home by doing it near a wall and kind of swinging my legs up overhead because my hamstrings are too tight to get up more gracefully. In class I tried the same thing, except NOT against a wall, and ended up falling flat on my back, lol! The instructor was like, “If you can’t get into headstand with more control… you might just want to stick to dolphin pose.” I was like, awwww. 😛

  3. Your space looks awesome!!! I find I have taken over my DH’s computer desk b/c it’s just more friendly to hang out with him while we’re both working. But the guest room is supposed to my room. However, I quickly figured out that I need the garage for my art b/c the floor is impervious to spilt paint and there’s an industrial sink next to the washer. But I’d still like to use the spare room as some sort of office. The problem is that it’s overstuffed with stuff that needs shelving and my original furniture arrangement is not conducive to anything useful.

    But you have inspired me. I am going to throw out a ton of stuff, focus on the room’s purpose (other than the place my Mom stays when she visits) and get to work!

    Hooray for Virginia Woolf!

  4. I totally suck at doing yoga at home. I always have grand plans to do it, but very rarely end up doing more than one or two single poses. I am sure a lot of it is that I don’t have a yoga mat. I need some kind of symbolic area to signal to my brain that This Is Yoga Time/Space… but I keep forgetting to buy one.

    I’m about 2m away from getting a multi-class pass at a studio instead, though. At home yoga is too unreliable for me.

    1. Unless I’m following a video or something, my yoga attention span at home averages about 10 minutes. I used to be really good about doing 3-5 sun salutations, a couple warrior poses, then some leg stretches and twists after cardio, but it rarely took me longer than 15 minutes tops. I think doing ashtanga helped me lengthen my made-up vinyasas because I learned a couple way to transition through poses to make it feel more fluid, rather than, “Ok, mountain pose… downward dog… hm, tree pose? Yeah, I’m done!”

      One thing I’ve really enjoyed about having a dedicated yoga spot is getting in some down dogs and restorative poses before bed on really busy days. It might only take me 5 minutes, but I feel so much more relaxed when I hit the sack.

      I agree though, if it wasn’t for my twice a week membership, my at-home yoga would be even more hit-and-miss.

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