Carving out a space for a movement practice in a smaller space can be a bit of a challenge. It would be great to have a dedicated movement practice space, but what I have is a living room. I want my place to feel ‘homey’, but I want some bare floor space too, without having to completely re-arrange furniture every time to lay out my props.
If I lived on my own, I’d probably be pretty much furniture-free, but I am not on my own and my job isn’t to convince my partner that furniture free is a better way to live. I also believe in balance and moderation; movement is a big part of my life but it is not the only part.
I believe the balance of my home would change I were to turn my living room, essentially, into a single purpose movement practice room. Peace, comfort, coziness and beauty are also important to me. I may sit on the floor during the day to study, but at night I want to cozy up on the sofa (with a throw over me) to watch a show, read a book, or crochet.
I’ve tried a number of configurations to optimize our space. Like many modern apartments, the eating area is a small square off the galley kitchen: so one thing I’ve tried is to put the dining table into the living room and use the dining room as an office work area. That actually created less movement space!
The Downsizing Procrastination
Granted, we could definitely do a little better furniture-wise: we have an extra chair and a love seat (the love seat is currently in the dining room) which actually works pretty well. The chair could and should go to new owners.
We both have things we really want to keep, things we think that some day we will use. For my husband it is his full size electric keyboard (it takes up a big potential free-wall space in the living room). For for me it is our electric fireplace. It is my comfort: it is not just about the heat (though that is my rationale) it is about the coziness of seeing a fireplace flame, even if it is electric. I am also the one who hangs on to the most books, and I have two bookshelves at the moment.
As I said, we could do better but I got tired of trying to make it all work. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? I noticed too, that this was much less of an issue when I worked a 9-5 outside the home. If we move, that will be the time to make these decisions at this point in our lives. It all works, for the most part. The next big move we are planning is back to full-timing in an RV, and like 15 years ago, the first time we did that – we will be downsizing.
Your Practice Needn’t be Confined to the Mat
But this article isn’t really about that. It is about carving out some physical space to move. It is about thinking about your needs, making what you have work. The endpoint is to remove some of the reasons that might be keeping you from your home practice.
What got me thinking about it is that earlier in the week I wanted to do a yoga series using a wall, only I don’t have any free wall space that doesn’t require moving a bunch of stuff. So, my legs up the wall became legs up the fireplace instead.
Later I wanted to do a bolstered restorative pose. I don’t have a traditional long bolster. We both have meditation cushions which require some finagling to make work so they tend to get forgotten. I do have a Thai Triangle Pillow, like these. A Triangle Pillow is a cotton filled sleeping mat that folds into a bolster shape. They come in different sizes, too. I bought this one primarily as a sleeping mat.
It is quite comfortable for sleeping on and because I keep in in my living room, it is something I don’t have to get out. All sorts of movement practices can be done on it such as supported poses for hips and shoulders. It also feels good to elevate my feet on the back.
Space for Props
The other thing I struggled with was where to keep my other props. I have yoga blocks, straps, Yoga Tune Up balls and my domes. They used to go in a large basket, jumbled together. Out of sight is out of mind, and I end up spending my precious movement practice time searching for my block. Now they are living in the shelves of my TV stand.
Use what you Have
On the other hand, we don’t really need specialized equipment for movement. I would argue that a yoga mat is really useful for a number of reasons, but there are alternatives for yoga blocks, domes, straps resistance bands and balls. They are convenient but there are things you have around the house that would also work. Take a scarf, or a length of ribbon and you have a strap. A pair of old tights can become a resistance band. Books can take the place of blocks, rolled up towels and blankets can become bolsters. I use my coffee table for a lot of poses.
Nothing stays the same (I wrote about this – read it here – in 2014 and we no longer have the furniture pieces I described) and no doubt this current arrangement will change too. Personally, I actually have to to schedule time to practice. If I don’t I will have dozens of other things I ‘have’ to do. I want a sustainable practice. Part of that means removing barriers to moving. Making it easier to practice makes one more step towards sustainable movement.