So what is Room, how do we make room, and what does 'room' mean for our yoga practice?
Let's look at some definitions:
1. A space that can be occupied or where something can be done.
To illustrate how 'room' can refer to a space that has some potential, the dictionary uses the example: 'she made room for Josh on the sofa'. Now, this may not be a very yogic example of the word but if we break this sentence down, we can identify three necessary components of finding room for our practice: recognition, inclination and action.
(Don't worry, 'she made room for yoga on the sofa' is not where I'm going with this...).
In order to make room for yoga (or any other person, pursuit or thing) we first need to recognise that there is room; be willing to make room and then actually go about creating that room.
Having the inclination to make room is key; the fact that you want to, can create space where previously there was none.
(Ok, so it turns out, 'she made room for yoga on the sofa' is exactly where I'm going with this...).
There might not be any room on the sofa, you might not like Josh and you might just stay sat exactly where you are. But - and it's a big but - you could always give up your seat, you could choose to sit on the floor, and if you really don't like Josh, why is he in your house anyway?
2. Opportunity or scope for something to be done.
Carefully constructed sofa analogy aside, our second 'room' definition is concerned with all things metaphysical. (Are you really still reading this?!)
Scope is tantamount to imagination and our imagination plays an important part in establishing room for a yoga practice.
If we can't even imagine a time, or a space where we might have room, how will we ever find it? How will we set the intention? How will we recognise the opportunity for it when it comes along?
The imagined space both affords and preserves our ambition (whether yoga related or otherwise). To quote John Donne twice, if only to try and prove that my student debt was worth it:
Leaving sonnets to the professionals, scope for our practice might simply be thinking about buying a yoga mat. It might be keeping that book by your pillow. It might be sticking a post-it note to your phone addressed to your 7am self that says 'Get up now! Don't you dare press snooze!'. It might be leaving that job for later. (It might be trying to write a blog).
3. A part or division of a building enclosed by walls, floor, and ceiling.
Well, this one's simple enough. Like Virginia Woolf, us sādhakas (practioners) need a room of our own. To practise āsana (the yoga postures you will associate with attending a class, and only one of the eight 'limbs' of yoga*), we really do need a room of the physical, bricks and mortar sort.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (a 15th century C.E. yoga 'how to'), it is written that:
The yogi should live in a secluded hut free of stones, fire and dampness to a distance of four cubits in a country that is properly governed, virtuous, prosperous, and peaceful.
In reality, this may well push the Rightmove filter options to the limit, but if we are lucky enough to have a roof over our head (and I assume that if you have the luxury of reading this blog, that you do) we can find a suitable alternative.
A regular class, a spare room, the spot of carpet at the bottom of the bed (my favourite), any clean, clear-ish space can be made your yoga practice room.
Yes, it may not be ideal, and yes, you may have to contend with tables, lampshades and dodging the limbs of the person next to you (if you are in a class), or fitting around the needs of the person/people you live with.
4. The people present in a room.
When thinking about other people in the context of yoga practice, it's perhaps obvious to think about your teacher (if you have one) and your fellow students, as you will recognise this to be your immediate yoga community. However, our community is wider than that. The people present in the yoga room are also the ones who are not there; your teacher's teachers and their teacher's teachers; the rich history, philosophy and traditions of yoga that you are beginning to discover.
The people present in the room are also our people; lovers, friends, family, that woman you met on the bus stop - the ones that treat us kindly and the ones that treat us not so kindly. We take them with us.
How often do you find yourself thinking about someone else when you are trying to relax in corpse pose?
Let's face it, these other people might not be all that interesting to you right now, but just knowing that the room you inhabit is not just yours alone, is a start.
Finding room may often feel like a compromise but if we find the space, the intention and some time for practice then we are doing ok.
Being on our yoga mats is not a replacement for living, we practise so that we may be able to live our lives a little bit better each day. If we find ourselves feeling stressed and frustrated about finding space for our practice (hint: it sounds like "Shut up [insert loved ones name]! I'm trying to do bloody yoga in here!] then we are not practising yoga, we are just putting our own crap onto a more worthy looking canvas in the hope that no-one will notice, and we can carry on getting away it.
This room, our yoga room, is not a shrine.
It's not the room we keep pristine for visitors. It's not the room where we stuff everything into the cupboard and quickly shut the door to stop it all tumbling out. It's an everyday place, like the bathroom or the kitchen, that we sometimes like because it feeds us, and we sometimes avoid because it requires us to work. It's not a room where we can mop the floor once, and forever keep our shoes off in the hope that it will stay clean.
We live in this room and it's a mess sometimes, but we are fond of it (the mess too) - if only because it is ours and we always have the opportunity to make it 'home'.
*yes, there really are seven more without a downward-facing dog in sight!