So you’ve completed yoga teacher training, and you see everyone you know has a beautiful altar they are instagraming up the waa-zoo, and you’re wondering: “Am I supposed to have one, too?”
Maybe a dancing Shiva or bronze Ganesh statue is just what you are looking for. Perhaps the gods and goddesses of the Hindu tradition provide the inspiration you need to find peace within chaos, or be reminded you are working each day to live an ethical life.
But before scouring flea markets for a bronze deity statue, ask yourself: how is this item meaningful to my personal journey? If you have an answer on the other side of that question, great! If you’re not so sure, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you are lagging behind the other yogis and need to play catch-up, re-read Siddhartha, and sub out your classes while you prioritize collecting sacred items now. Remember vairagya, or non-attachment? Let’s not worry so much about the stuff.
At the same time, a small collection of “stuff” might be something you’ll draw inspiration from. And yours very well may include one of the aforementioned bronze statues, and be arranged in the manner of a traditional zen or Buddhist altar. Or something totally different that you affiliate with your spiritual or religious background. That may help you stay connected to the roots of your practice. I’m simply suggesting not to force it.
Maybe there are other items, already in your home, or at your desk at work, that serve as reminders of why you practice. Yoga gives us universal principles and unites us as a community, but the practice is still very personal. Your meditation altar (or whatever you choose to call it) can be very personal as well. If you are religious, maybe it’s about worship. If not, maybe it’s simply a place for mementos that encourage mindfulness. Let it be a reflection of your authentic self, not someone else’s.
Self-disclosure: I do not currently have a meditation altar. But there are items in my home that are special to me. Things I have been given by loved ones. When I clear a space to “display” them, it reminds me of the good people in my life; the people I am blessed to know. The people who have helped me. The people who have made positive impressions on my life, time and time again. Each of these things may seem like insignificant trinkets, but they remind me of the friends and family members they came from. And when I get up on the wrong side of the bed, or come home after an encounter with someone hurtful, a visual reminder of those good people can be transformative. I can choose not to give too much power to those negative moments, because good is still out there.
I am blessed, and I am lucky.