Say ‘Om’ from the comfort of home

As yoga gains ground, more and more people are practicing on their own

There are so many types of yoga now on offer that you can choose a practice entirely based on your sensibilities, such as bikram if you like it hot, ashtanga if you like it more physical, kundalini if you’re interested in breathing alignment, or kripalu, which adds meditation.

As more people, young and old, take up yoga for good health, suppleness and sometimes for enlightenment, they often discover that they want more than a yoga class a few times a week.

They look for a favourite spot at home where they can complete the daily yoga ritual, a place they dedicate to their practice. Some use a separate room, while others simply carve out a quiet space in a corner of the living room. Whatever they choose, the key is to create an atmosphere that is so calming that even the family dog, with a deep sigh, is able to relax. What makes the space? Start with soft colours, music, candles and statuary.

All of these are in abundance in the yoga spaces that follow. Whether you’re a relative novice like Marie-Eve Methot, who has been…
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doing yoga for just a few years, or a veteran practitioner like yoga teacher Kelly McGrath, a tranquil space sets the stage for the concentration needed for yoga, the ancient practice of breathing, movement and meditation.Marie-Eve Methot learned about quiet spaces while living in Tokyo. “I lived in a traditional house in Japan, with a tatami bedroom,” she says. “There was a tokonoma, a little alcove space to meditate, that you could decorate with your favourite flowers.”

The little carved cabinet that she used for meditation in Tokyo is now part of her personal yoga space, a raised platform in her Montreal loft. Surrounded by fine gauze drapery, the cabinet stands on an antique lacquered side table, and on it Methot places objects that inspire her -a set of bells from Japan, lacquered rose petals, a crystal and her favourite photo from her collection of blackand-whites from Canadian photographer Gregory Colbert’s startling series on wild creatures.

On the floor near the edge of the Persian rug on which she practises her yoga early each morning, she keeps a low table with teacups and a pink wax bowl from Morocco filled with water and floating candles.

“When I practise, I like to light the candles if it’s dark, and put on soft music,” says Methot, who began yoga when she returned from Tokyo in 2008.

Each morning, the living room of Kelly McGrath’s small N.D.G. apartment undergoes a transformation. The coffee table is moved aside, the couches are pushed back, and a rattan screen becomes the backdrop for the low table in front of which she lays her yoga mat. With her three dogs relaxing nearby, inhaling the tender scent of Tibetan incense, she completes her hour-long ritual.

“I like to make up a small table, which I call an altar, so I can meditate,” says McGrath, who has been teaching yoga for 11 years full time, and practising for more than 20. On it, for inspiration, she puts a statue of Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and prosperity, and images of people she loves.

She wears comfortable, loose clothing, always cotton, and usually plays soft music, feeling a sense of the sky or vast ocean from the turquoise walls. “I find turquoise very calming; it helps me feel more balanced,” she says.

Yoga teacher Bram Levinson has wide open spaces in his Plateau loft, but wherever he chooses to place his yoga mat, the ritual remains the same. “I make sure that I sweep the floor so that it’s really clean, and I wash my hands,” he says.

Then he chooses a piece of furniture, like a cabinet, which he covers with a soft cloth and prepares as the centrepiece for his practice. He places candles and a statue of Ganesh, “the remover of obstacles, prayed to at the beginning of celebrations,” says Levinson, who also has a tattoo of the god on his left calf.

Home practice is a necessity for Lee-Ann Matthews. Specially trained at the Kripalu yoga centre in Massachusetts, she has been teaching children for five years.

“I practise at home because I need quiet, and there’s something nice about early morning for me,” she says. “It helps me get into the zone.”

Matthews is referring to the meditation zone, which she believes is central to any yoga practice. For this reason, she believes yoga practice can be done anywhere.

“You don’t need a yoga mat to do yoga. It’s a state of mind,” she says.

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