Yoga can feel intimidating to HSPs. This is especially true if your exposure to yoga has primarily been through seeing athletic young models doing extremely challenging yoga poses on social media. It can also be challenging to start because there are many different types of yoga that have vastly different paces and styles. As a highly sensitive person who usually likes to know what to expect before we try something, it can be hard to know where to begin.
8 Tips to Help You Feel More Prepared to Try Yoga:
1) There are many styles of yoga and they can be quite different.
Active styles: Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Hot Yoga
Moderate Styles: Kripalu, Hatha, Kundalini, Iyengar, Prenatal
Restful Styles: Yin, Restorative, Yoga Nidra
2) Not all classes are geared toward beginners.
If you happen upon an advanced class, it may turn you off from yoga forever. The best way to know if a class is right for you is to ask the teacher or studio directly or look for classes that have names like “Beginner”, “Gentle” “Level 1” or “Restorative.”
3) If you can’t do a pose, that is okay!
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be flexible to do yoga and you do not need to do everything the teachers says. It’s called a yoga “practice” for a reason; you are not meant to be perfect. You should always be encouraged to listen to your body in class, modify as needed and go at your own pace. If you are not encouraged to do this, you may want to look for a different instructor.
4) Conscious breathing is fundamental to the practice.
Unless instructed otherwise, in yoga we breathe in and out through the nose at a calm pace. This keeps us present in the moment and increases our sense of wellbeing. There are also many different breathing exercises, called Pranayama, that an instructor may lead you through.
5) Classes usually start with meditation and end with a final relaxation.
Be prepared to have times of stillness during class. If you find it difficult to meditate and be still, know that this is normal. The mind will always have thoughts flowing in and out. That is what it is designed to do. Your job when meditating is just to notice that you are thinking and come back to a focus on your breath when you can. It’s okay and very human of you if you find it hard.
6) There are a few items you will benefit from having in your practice.
First and foremost, you will need a yoga mat. I often see people trying to use padded workout mats when new to yoga. These mats tend to not have enough traction and can be unstable and contribute to injuries. Make sure the mat you use has good grip and is meant for yoga. You will also want to wear comfortable, flexible clothing and to remove your socks. If you have a blanket, yoga blocks, bolster, or eye pillow, these many enhance your practice as well but are not necessary. I also recommend having water with you.
7) Yoga classes are generally not a time for talking.
Sometimes students may ask questions during class, but usually yoga classes are meant to be quiet and contemplative without a lot of extra discussion or distraction. This may be a bonus to you if you are an introverted HSP! You can always ask the teacher questions before or after class if you can’t find a time during class.
8) If you don’t like the class, don’t give up.
Often what we like most (or least!) about a class as highly sensitive people is the energy of the teacher. If you don’t like your first class, don’t let that deter you. Keep looking and you will find the right teacher and type of class for you. It can also take time to get used to the yoga poses. You may feel silly at first, but that will get better over time as well. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become and the more you will feel the benefit.
With Love & Sensitivity,
HSP Yoga Instructor & Wellness Coach