What is a Zen Den, and Why do You Need One?

“Zen Den,” relatively speaking, is a phrase made up to describe a space you devote to practicing yoga. The concept of a zen den is relatively simple: It is a place that you can go to relax and connect to yourself while expanding your awareness of the present moment.

Maybe you’ve tried your hand at yoga practice successfully or seemingly unsuccessfully. That’s the point of it. Yoga is considered a practice because it can always change and always improve. This is the beauty of an at-home yoga routine.

Whether you are trying to combat the physical effects of your mental health issues, or just trying to find a moment of peace amongst the chaos in your world, follow along to see how you can create the ultimate zen den utilizing a successful and restorative at-home yoga practice.

How to Feng Shui Your Zen Den

An at-home space to practice yoga can help you become ritualistic and consistent with your yoga routine. Having a space that you can go to helps to create a pattern of participation.  By finding a spot that feels comfortable, you are more likely to devote your time regularly to a practice, thus the purpose of a zen den.

All you need to create this area is a room or space big enough to stretch your limbs in and a yoga mat. Adding blankets and pillows to the space can help you when props are needed. In flexibility poses, having a simple prop can help you feel more confident about your practice while also making it more comfortable. In comparison to most workout regimens, you don’t need much space for yoga. Learning to work with what you have and adapt it to benefit you is an important part of the yogic path.

A zen den can be either a transitory space or a set space, meaning that you can either do yoga in a space where you have to move furniture around each time or where you have a devoted spot set for your yoga practice.  It’s OK to have a combination of both or to choose just one.

When choosing this space, it’s important to focus on what is important to you for a successful yoga practice. For example, the colors you chose to live in this space matter. Color has an important effect on emotion. For example, cool colors create a calm and relaxing space, while warm colors create an environment of stimulation. Both sets of colors are perfect for a zen den; because what is perfect for a zen den is what works best for you.

Cozy is better when it comes to creating a calm den. It should always remain simple with little distractions to keep the intentions of the room. Bringing in photos or special tokens can mark your space as sacred, while helping you honor your practice and it’s sole focus. Liven up your space with plants and candles. Consider investing in a diffuser and essential oils to help you drop into an effective yoga practice even more easily. My own zen den is filled with a plethora of different plants simply because they make me happy, and what is a zen den if it doesn’t evoke happiness?

How to Start a Yoga Routine

The most important aspect of a zen den is that you actually utilize it and that it benefits your mind and body in the best way possible. These days online and virtual yoga classes are more sophisticated than ever. This can help you get into a practice without the need to leave the house. My personal favorite channel is Yoga With Adriene. She has hundreds of guided practice videos — for beginners to experts — with great advice on alternate poses and breathing techniques.

An at-home yoga practice allows you to utilize the correct routine for your mood. If you are feeling down or anxious, a home practice is a perfect place to leave it all on the mat. If you’re tired, a restorative yin yoga routine can help to wind down your mind and body. If you’re needing an intense workout, consider a vinyasa flow. This can help get your blood pumping, moving nervous energy away from the brain. The best part about a home routine is that you get to choose what works for you!

Find a time to practice that works best for you. Personally, I find that practicing at night is ideal for me. The main reason is that waking up earlier than my required 5:30 a.m. alarm makes me cringe. But practicing yoga in the morning is known to help you have the best morning ever. Getting your circulatory system pumping first thing in the morning is a great way to wake you up and kickstart your metabolism. It will also put you in a zen mood and get you ready to take on the day ahead!

Knowing how to control your breath is important to creating a successful practice. This type of practice is beneficial both on and off the mat. I recommend a video called “Nadi Shodhan pranayama” or Alternate Nostril Breathing. This breath will help to cool and calm the body, getting you ready for your routine. Another great and universal breath practice is called Ujjayi breath. This is the most basic yogic breath and helps to focus the brain and helps with synchronizing the breath and the body. This is an important aspect of yoga! And the best part? An at-home practice allows you to breathe as loud as you want without the awkward looks!

Another important thing to remember about a yoga practice is that you are working all the parts of yourself: brain and body! Focusing on the benefits can help to ease any anxiety you might have about actually taking time to do yoga. Focusing on an intention during your time on the mat can also help take away any anxiety you have about practicing yoga. By repeating a simple mantra of your choice, you can help direct your focus to the task at hand. An intention can be as simple as “I will finish this practice.” Repeating your intention over and over can bring about a change in your thought process for the remainder of the practice.

Benefits of an At-Home Yoga Practice

Even an experienced yogi can be intimidated by practicing in a room with 15-30 other people. In this situation, it can take more discipline to focus on yourself versus what is going on around you. I find myself asking things like, “where did she get those pants?” “Are my poses as perfect as the guy next to me?” and “How does she do that?” when attending group classes. Creating an at-home practice lets you create a judgment-free and ego-free space. There are no feelings of competition at home. This helps keep toxic self-thoughts at bay, leaving room for just you, your mat, and your incoming feelings of zen.

Having a consistent at-home practice allows you to work on your skills on your own time. If you want to practice daily, it allows you the opportunity without the high price tag of yoga studios and memberships. An at-home yoga practice also means that you don’t have to worry about making it to a yoga class on time. You are the one who controls the time frame you have to work on your practice, not a class schedule

One of my favorite things about an at-home yoga practice is that it allows me to take breaks when I need to. Traditionally, classroom settings provide 45-90 minutes of intense and variable yoga poses/routines. An at-home practice allows me to stop and take a drink of water, use the restroom, or just lay in savasana when I feel like I’m too exhausted to finish the routine. An at-home yoga practice allows you to set your own pace.

A daily exercise routine is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, like a consistent yoga practice, can help reduce blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol levels, improve muscular function and strength, and improve the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen. Vinyasa flow can give you all the benefits of a cardio exercise, without the treadmill.

I am extremely susceptible to the effects of stress and anxiety. I struggle often with headaches, appetite changes, sleeping problems, and upset stomachs all the effects of stress. Yoga has reduced these effects significantly for me. The fact is, the benefits of yoga cannot be disputed. It has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, to help fight depression and anxiety, and to promote strength and healthy eating habits.

But it doesn’t stop there — yoga has a whole host of other scientifically proven health benefits. By creating a zen den, or a space in your home that allows for uninterrupted contemplation and self-love, you are helping yourself become the best version of you.

Photo by Lena Bell on Unsplash