“I am a yogi, yoga is not a religion, so why do I need an altar?” You probably asked yourself that question, or you have been asked by others. Well, let me try to explain the importance of an altar for us yogis and how you can create one of your own.
Is yoga a religion?
No and yes. If you consider a religion something like Christianity, Judaism or Islam, then yoga is not a religion. There is neither a particular God with a name nor is there any idea of hierarchy in yoga. That is why in general Yoga is not considered to be a religion but more a path towards enlightenment or a philosophical system. If you look at the root of the word “religion”, which comes from the Latin word “religionem” it could mean “respect for what is sacred” or “conscientiousness.” Both of which can be considered yogic characteristics.
Why should a yogi have an altar?
In the path of devotion, bhakti yoga, it is all about offering up, about letting go. To offer something up means you do not keep it for yourself, you become generous and share it with everything and everybody. In the yogic sense, God represents something universal or cosmic, something that is bigger than your small individual self. When you offer something to that idea of the divine, then you are giving it to the whole universe which includes every other being. The altar is making it easier for you to offer something as it is putting a form and maybe name to that mysterious principle of God. You could see an altar as a prop for your practice of offering and devotion.
The “how-to” of an altar.
First of all find a spot in your home that is dear to you, where you like to spend time. Then you might want to find a small or large base for the altar. That could be a wooden box, a nice kind of tray or just a small part of an existing furniture in your house. When you give a present to somebody, you want it to be the nicest thing ever; you choose it carefully. Do the same thing when creating your altar, especially when you start putting things on it. Those could be little statues, pictures of beloved ones, things you found on your walk through the woods or items that have been given to you. As long as you are placing them with care and love, then there are no restrictions. My advice is that you choose things that when you see them you feel love and positive feelings rushing through you; this will make it so much easier to bow down in front of them! Over time you should make sure that you keep the altar clean and might add parts of all elements: a glass of water, burning some incense, lighting a candle, etc.
Now, use it!
An altar is not a dead furniture; it is a place of practice. Every time you walk by you can indulge in the beauty of it, letting it remember you goodness. While doing your yoga practice consider having times of actually bowing down. This physical act is an excellent way to revisit the sweet feelings of devotion and humbleness. What you are bowing down to is your divine spark, your inner light, your true Self; the altar is a way of reminding yourself of your true nature, which is whole, complete and missing nothing.
I would love to see pictures of your altar, so please share them with us. As always if you have any questions or comments then write into the box below!