Five Pillars Yoga

Sacred Space

The Elements of An At-Home Altar and How to Make One

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” This quote by Annie Dillard from her book The Writing Life functions like a great big exhale. It’s a reminder to step back, see our priorities, and reflect on where we expend energy. Dillard’s insight about time is also true of space: How we treat our spaces is how we treat ourselves. By watching how we spend our time and how we use our space we can begin to see how we value ourselves.

A simple way to carve out meaningful and profound time and space is to create an area in your home dedicated to meditation or quiet reflection. Most yoga studios have an altar as a way to anchor the room and honor the intentions of the space and the teachers. If it appeals to you, creating an altar in your own home is as important as unrolling your yoga mat when it comes to cultivating a home practice, either of asana or simple mindfulness.

How to do it:

First, there are no rules around creating your altar: It is a reflection of you. If you’re looking for direction, think about incorporating the elements into your space and bringing them into balance.

Water: A simple glass or a vase with fresh flowers is a wonderful way to call in the water element. Make a ritual of picking or buying flowers for your altar every week — consider it a gift to your spiritual practice.

Earth: Flowers, again, ground back into the earth. For something evergreen, consider using dried stems or petals or another gift from the outside world: a beautiful stone, shell, a crystal or piece of wood.

Fire: A candle, incense, a smudge stick — like sage, palo santo, or sweet grass — immediately adds a sense of ritual and heightens the senses.

Air: The air element is about mutability, flexibility and change. Allow your altar to be dynamic by adding and subtracting elements that newly inspire you or no longer serve you.


Make it personal.

Photographs, gifts and meaningful mementos are perfectly at home in sacred space. Who are your guides or role models? It might be someone universal, like the Hindu goddess Durga or the Buddha, or it could be someone from your daily life — your parents, child or someone you want to honor.


You don’t need to have a dedicated yoga or meditation room in your home for your altar, but if you do, start decorating! For the rest of us, work with what you have. Clear off a shelf, a side table, a corner of your dresser, or even an empty corner. Being able to sit in front of your altar is great, but just having a spot that you’ve steeped with meaning to pause by or look at will remind you to stop and center.

Once you’ve chosen your elements and a serene space to put them in, spend some time arranging and organizing. Harmony and balance in your physical space can promote the same internally.

Finally, once your space is created, use it. The more regularly you come into your sacred space the more sacred it will become.