What does it mean to build a place with affection? How can we make the spaces where we spend much of our time temples for the work that is the “breath of our spirit?” The science of vaastu shastra recognizes that by tuning in to the formulas and patterns found abundantly in nature we can create buildings and interiors that are energetically harmonious with the rest of creation, and provide an optimal environment for work that is congruent with our spirits.
Yoga studios can be challenging to design because they are places that should facilitate consciousness expansion. By their very nature, workspaces are places in transition where new things pile up and old things are taken away. In most workspaces, the potential for chaos is not only a reality, but also something that directly affects our ability to work creatively and with inspiration. The workspace is a living metaphor for the samsara that Eastern traditions speak of – the cycle of ups and downs, chaos and constriction that we all just want to be done with!
Ancient wisdom and tradition are great sources for revealing ways of being in the frenzied world of today. There are teachings, sciences and art forms that have been tried and tested for thousands of years that offer a direct means of living grounded and integrated lives, no matter where or when we find ourselves. In India, the science of vaastu shastra has been utilized in the design and construction of buildings in order to harmonize the structures with the greater workings of the universe. When such principles are considered and honored, we can see real changes in our homes, offices and relationships.There are simple tools we can employ to create stronger balance in the space where we often spend a lot of our working lives. Let us take, for example, the spaces so many of us visit that are dedicated to healing. The yoga studio as an example, should invite calm and clarity from the moment a person enters from the street. Sufis call dervishes “doorways” because thresholds invite a shift of consciousness. Entrance doors provide an opportunity to release the energy of the outer world. This should be a necessity in any healing environment and is amplified in the yoga studio. From the moment a person enters off the street, the work space should be calm and quiet, an invitation to openness.
For businesses, where you are meeting with clients, it is essential that you create a space that is both inviting and fulfills your practical needs. As always, vaastu shastra encourages us to keep central spaces open in rooms. If you meet with clients at a desk, move it out of the center and towards a corner or side of the room if possible, preferably to the north or east. Walking through an open space evokes an inner sense of openness and receptivity. From this state of awareness, yoga business
dealings can feel clear and progress more easily.
An ancient Hindu practice that aligns with the principles of vaastu shastra is Atiti Satkar, the proper treatment of guests. When people enter your space, they must be welcomed with respect and compassion. A simple act such as offering light food or drink lets the person know that they are cared for and important to you. Welcome them to your workplace as you would welcome a friend to your home. The reception area should be free of visual clutter with desks and filing cabinets well hidden. Taoism teaches an awareness of the flow of energy, and in space design this means creating free flowing traffic patterns. Tripping over clutter as we come into a room is not much fun, so as designers, we make sure that entryways and access into furniture groupings are easy and inviting.
Colors should flow from space to space too. There are so many ways to play with color. They have such a strong effect on us psychologically, physiologically and spiritually. In yoga studios, calm and neutral colors are helpful, as are light blues, greens and violets that reinforce the energies of the higher chakras. Colors that evoke the ocean or a still pond will balance out the other energies and help bring a heightened sense of calm to the space.
In any design project, pay a lot of attention to lighting. Because light is one of the first emanations from source, we have a deep archetypal resonance with it. Lighting affects us greatly by creating atmosphere. Make sure lighting highlights artwork and provides good clear illumination in task areas; use soft pools of light, by way of lamps, dimmer switches, candles and firelight, to create spaces for meditation and relaxation.
It is important to fill spaces with beautiful, meaningful objects. Objects contain the energies of their material elements as well as the energies of their makers and previous owners. Sacred objects immediately take us into our depths. Sculpture, pictures, ornaments and rugs can shift our consciousness without our even being aware of it. Objects created without much thought feel empty. Notice the difference certain objects have when you are around them, and choose those that resonate with you.
In vaastu shastra, emphasis is placed on the geographical orientation of spaces. The most important principle is the brahmasthana (dwelling place of Brahma, the absolute) that correlates with the very center of the whole space, and of the individual rooms. It is believed that this central area is where heaven and earth meet, where divine energy is harnessed to positively affect the rest of the structure. Because the energy of this space can be so intense, it is strongly recommended that people not spend much time in this region and that it be free of clutter.
The northeast corner is an extremely important area, as this is the dwelling place of the water element. Meditation spaces thrive in this location, offering a great sense of peace and serenity. This is the perfect corner of the space for creating a simple altar. In India, great importance is placed on sacred imagery, and the profound effect artwork can have in one’s home, workplace, and daily life. Just as there are innumerable shrines to deities on the sidewalks and streets, so business owners bring in deities to nurture certain areas of their work. Images of Lakshmi fill many shops and offices as she is the benevolent Goddess of Wealth and Abundance. Ganesha, the Elephant-Headed Remover of Obstacles, is often placed by an entrance to welcome guests and keep things moving smoothly. Saraswati, the beautiful Goddess of Art, Learning, Music, and Poetry, and young children, is often kept her on desks so that she will give a blessing of success and staying focused. By placing beautiful artwork or simple powerful objects in places where your eyes fall when they take their rest, you can provide yourself with inspiration for both creative work and inner healing.
Southwest corners of a space are where the earth element is most present and they are considered the ideal location for grounding and rest. This corner in a reception room, for example, should be filled with plants and flowers, particularly if there is a window on the east wall allowing for the light of the rising sun to stream in. This is the corner in which to anchor yourself by bringing in strong earth elements. It helps people to feel held and supported. You want to create a space that is grounded for you and the client, so think of bringing in whatever natural elements you can. If you have the space, bring in plants with large, luscious leaves. Not only do plants bring a natural, living quality to a workspace, but they also evoke a sense of prosperity and wellbeing.
Plants also help to balance out the presence of computers, fax machines, phones, and other electrical devices that are imperative for our communication but create static that may be disturbing. In an ideal situation, electrical devices would be moved to the southeast section of the office space or room, as this is the direction associated with agni (fire). Using glass in your environment, as partitions or in the form of a beautiful vase, brings light into a space and subtly reminds us of our inner light, thereby creating an environment for inspiration.
For those working in tight spaces, the challenge can seem more daunting but is certainly surmountable with some keen attention to placement. One of vaastu shastra’s main principles is that all spaces are honored as conscious, living entities. Simply by developing a relationship with your workspace, and honoring it as a place to cultivate success and wealth, you can begin to put things in order. Remember that you are not the only one who needs to be organized in order to succeed. The workspace itself calls for cleanliness, beauty and order so that positive energy can circulate throughout.
Whatever your profession, your office space can benefit by striking a balance between professionalism and aesthetics. The salient vaastu shastra principle is to bring light and life into your workspace, and make it a sacred, comfortable productive place for you.