How do I set up a home altar?

Posted by Alina Prax

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Alina has been an avid yogi for over 20 years. After completing her Sanskrit studies at the University of Texas-Austin, she traveled to northern India on a pilgrimage to various holy sites to celebrate. She holds a 300-hour yoga teacher certificate from Dharma Yoga, a Buddhist-based asana practice. Over the years, she has had the honor of studying with some inspiring teachers such as Richard Freeman, Shannon Gannon and the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She is thrilled to be part of the Yogapedia editorial team, helping to craft beautiful and meaningful articles about yoga and the spiritual path.

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Q:

How do I set up a home altar?

A:

Creating a home altar is a fun and creative way to establish a sacred space in your home. A small home altar is a reflection of our spiritual aspirations as well as a place where we honor our teachers, gurus and gods. (Read more in How to Create an Ashram Vibe in Your Home.)

Dedicate a Space

To set up your own personal altar, start by choosing a spot that you will dedicate exclusively. Home altars can be set up anywhere. In a designated corner of a room, in an alcove, outside in your garden or even atop a bookshelf. The main point is to designate a space and keep it solely for that purpose. I have my altar set up on the mantel of our fireplace. There is nothing else on the mantle. I love seeing it each time I walk through the living room because it reminds me to pause and say a prayer of thanks.

If you have small children, you may opt to set your altar up and out of reach. If your children are older, you might take a few minutes explain to them the sacred nature of an altar and teach them how to approach it respectfully. You may also wish to ask your child to contribute something of their own, such as a small object that has special meaning to them. By inviting your child to incorporate something they hold dear, not only will they feel included in this special endeavor, but it will help them foster a natural sense of reverence.

Choose Sacred Objects

Once you’ve designated your space, you’ll want to spend a few moments contemplating what objects, pictures, symbols, etc. you want to incorporate into your altar. My altar includes a photograph of the Dalai Lama, a bronze statue of the Buddha Avalokiteshvara, a photo of my grandmother and a talisman from a Buddhist monastery in China. Your altar is yours and it should be a reflection of your personality and what you hold most dear on your spiritual journey. Make it as eclectic as you like. Statues of deities, pictures of gurus, crystals, candles, singing bowls and flowers are all just a few items you might consider including.

Final Touches

After you have selected the sacred objects, symbols and images you want to place on your altar, it’s time to put it all together. Some people like to place a beautiful piece of brightly colored fabric under their altar to further delineate the space. Others prefer to keep their altar simple and minimalist. Arrange your items in such a way that is appealing to you visually. It’s important that your altar draws your attention because you will be using it as a focal point during prayer and meditation. Visual harmony has a balancing effect on the mind and can be a powerful tool to bring about a sense of inner calm and roundedness.

Start Enjoying

Once you have finished setting up your altar, it’s time to bless the sacred space you have created. Burning incense, sage, sprinkling it with holy water or chanting an inaugural mantra are all ways in which you can bless your altar. When you feel your ritual is complete you are ready to start enjoying your home altar as a focal point throughout your day. (Read more about Cleansing With Sage.)

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