If you’ve visited Saraswati’s Yoga Joint in South Norwalk (or most any yoga studio, for that matter) you’ve probably noticed the beautiful altar at the front of the room featuring brass deities, candles, and flowers.
In Hindu tradition, an altar, or mandapam, is a sacred place used for ritual and to make offerings to the gods. Even if you don’t practice Hinduism, as a yoga student, it can be quite powerful to have a sacred place like this in your home to support your yoga and meditation practice.
“An altar can be a place for you to find your inner peace, to get quiet with yourself and go inward,” says SYJ teacher Ranjini Narayanamurti.
It can be a refuge from all of the crazy and hectic in our lives.
Since many of us are now practicing in our own homes through the SYJ Virtual Studio and can’t unfurl our mats in front of the SYJ altar, we decided to learn how to create our very own.
Here, Ranjini shares her tips for bringing more sacred into your everyday life with an at-home altar.
Find the right placement
If you can, place your altar in the most northeast place of whatever room it’s going to be in. (Hint: you can use the compass app on your phone if you’re not sure!)
Technically, it shouldn’t be in a bedroom. If you live in a studio apartment, don’t fret; a shelf on your kitchen counter will work nicely.
It’s also important that your altar be raised on its own surface. Whether your ideal spot is on the floor, a table, a bookshelf, or your counter, use a small shelf or box to give it a little lift.
Keep it clean
As a sign of respect and to keep your altar a special place, care should be taken to keep the area clean.
Traditionally, yoga asana is done so that you can sit in prayer or meditation after. For that reason, it’s recommended to bathe yourself before sitting in front of your altar (that’s why Ranjini always showers before yoga!)
Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and one of the most popular Hindui deities, is often displayed on altars. From there, add any other deities that speak to you.
Ranjini personally has Shiva, the patron god of yoga, and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and the arts, on her home altar alongside Ganesha.
Just avoid displaying the 15 Ganeshas or Saraswatis you’ve collected on your travels, as it is believed that repeating deities counteract one another.
In Indian households, people adorn the gods on their altars with flowers and place a piece of fruit as an offering.
If Hindu deities don’t speak to you, you can include any symbol that’s meaningful to you.
Make it sacred
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to add in touches that will be sacred to you. Some common ideas include:
- A white light, like a candle
- Photos of deceased ancestors as a sign of reverence
- Palo santo or sandalwood incense
- A bell to signify the start and close of meditation
- A special stone or crystal
- Mala beads for counting during meditation or reciting mantras
Whatever you choose, what matters most is that it’s personal to you.
“It’s a place for you to create inner peace for yourself,” says Ranjini. “So make it pretty, make it beautiful, make it something that speaks to you.”
Deepen your practice
- Find Ranjini teaching Foundations on Sundays and Mondays at 11:30 a.m. EST in-studio and online.
- Enjoy a guided meditation in the SYJ Virtual Studio.
- View Ranjini’s class recordings in the Virtual Studio.