If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, yoga can be a wonderful way to calm your overstimulated nervous system. However, not all yoga classes are created equally in this regard. If you’re anything like me, you’ve walked away from a yoga class or two feeling exhausted and ‘jangly-nerved.’ (I’m looking at you, super-hot studios crammed wall-to-wall with sweaty bodies and loud, blaring pop music playing–aka an HSP’s worst nightmare!;)) As an HSP, as well as a yoga teacher and studio owner for more than 20 years, I’ve got some advice on what to look for to find the right yoga class for our unique trait:
1) ‘Well-Balanced’ classes: Look for yoga teachers or studios who make it a point to say that all their classes–from gentler Yin to more strenuous Vinyasa–are well-balanced, grounding, and focused on calming frazzled nervous systems and relieving stress.
2) Peaceful Setting: Whether you’re searching for virtual yoga or in-person classes, look for signs that convey a peaceful setting–simple, minimal décor, soft (or no) music playing in the background, natural elements—all there to enhance the experience, but never to overpower it. As HSPs, we know that too much sensory stimuli–loud music, strong smells, clutter–will not help our nervous system relax.
3) Small class sizes (whether virtual or in-person): In classes of 10 students or less the yoga teacher can learn your name and have time to find out more about you. The teacher will be able to watch over you, anticipate your needs and keep you safe on your mat. If you’re brand-new to yoga and it’s in your budget, a few one-on-one private yoga sessions can be immensely helpful to make you feel comfortable before you join a group class.
4) Experienced Yoga Instructor: Look for a teacher who will help you feel comfortable during class by offering choices, modifications, plenty of opportunities for rest, and encouragement to listen to your own body. Verbal instructions should be concise and easy to follow so that you can close your eyes, direct your attention inward, and cultivate that sense of peace and relaxation that we HSPs crave. These skills can take most yoga teachers a long time to develop, so look for a seasoned instructor who’s been teaching for more than just a few years.
5) Choose Courses over Classes: Yoga instructors who teach themed courses (i.e. Journey Through the Chakras, 7 Weeks to Better Posture, Soothing Yoga for Stressful Times) are pretty rare, but when you do find them you’ll realize how much time and effort they’ve put into each yoga class they create. As HSPs, we appreciate that kind of creativity, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail that can offer us a much more unique and rich experience.
6) You should feel nurtured and special: Whether or not you are able to find a yoga instructor who is also an HSP, look for one who makes you feel cared for and supported. The number one thing I came away with from taking the course, ‘Brain Training for the Highly Sensitive Person,’ is the absolute necessity of self-care for HSPs. A nourishing yoga practice with a teacher who is thoughtful, compassionate, and who makes you feel special will support you in calming your nervous system, increasing your self-worth, and thriving as an empowered HSP.
This article was originally published on the HSP Sensitive Empowerment website, which offers a Sensitivity Quiz, free Masterclasses (on topics like Anxiety and Setting Healthy Boundaries) and the Brain Training course that I mentioned above and highly recommend.