If you’re an introvert who’s stressed out — or you simply want to feel more grounded — consider yoga.
When stress levels rise or back pain creeps up, we are all too often asked, “Have you tried yoga?” Yet how does an introvert choose a method among all the options that exist in our dynamic, modern world? The buzz of a busy yoga studio — not to mention the commute there on a weekday afternoon — may be more overwhelming than relaxing as part of a focused self-care routine.
But I have found the secret: For best results, be intentional about your yoga practice. This means considering the location, time of day, and type of practice you participate in. In essence, to have the most centering experience, focus on yourself, like your unique introvert needs and wants. Yes, this may feel like a guilty pleasure for a person with tons of responsibilities, but rest assured, feeling guilty is an optional part of the equation.
For Introverts, Practicing Yoga at Home Is Ideal
In addition to saving money, practicing yoga in the quiet of your own home can be much more calming. If you want to complete a guided practice, there are plenty of sites offering instruction videos — Gaia.com is a favorite of mine. Or, you can sign up for live classes over Zoom from your local studio. (Note: I have yet to have an instructor bother me for anything more than a brief intro.)
Then, set up a quiet spot with enough space for your mat and to raise your arms fully over your head and to the sides. Is your residence too full or small for this? If the weather is fitting, consider your yard or patio. Use a mat on the thick side for outdoor practice and pay attention to how flat a spot you can find in the grass.
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The Best Time to Practice Yoga
For me, I appreciate the quiet of early morning, which makes it an ideal time to practice yoga. Others are still asleep in my house and all I can hear from my residential neighborhood is a distant hum of activity and a few birds chirping.
As a morning person, I use my time in the early part of the day to set up for a less stressful day. Evening is also a wonderfully mellow time to lay down your mat and release the day’s built-up tension. Put on soft lighting, light a candle, and melt into the experience.
There might not be one “best” time of day to practice, but consider how your energy level shifts over the course of the day and what feels right to you.
Also, are there any timed interruptions you can avoid? For instance, can you hear rush hour from your window? Are you too overstimulated right after work to get into the flow? Be proactive and think about what may disrupt your flow and work from there. After all, the more you can focus, the better.
Choose the Type of Yoga That’s Best for You
I won’t say that introverts must restrict themselves to the slowest, most intentional grounding practices, but I will point out that restorative yoga and Yin yoga can be much more soothing and centering than power yoga (challenging poses targeted to improve strength) or never-ending sun salutations (popular energizing sequences used to greet the morning sun), for daily practice. Gentle Vinyasa (a type of yoga focusing on connecting breath to movement with a connected “flow” between poses) and other Hatha styles (“Hatha” is also used an umbrella term for many modern practices, and also as a specifier to denote a slow, controlled technique compared to Vinyasa) need not be overlooked and are the primary kinds you will find readily on YouTube and Netflix.
Restorative yoga has special benefits for introverts. Before studying yoga in-depth — for I am now a Registered Yoga Teacher — I saw restorative yoga as simply the slowest practice; to me, it was on the far end of the “will I get my cardio in” continuum. Restorative practice is truly unique: the goal is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system — which controls our fight-or-flight response — using much longer poses (five or more minutes) than you’ll find in other styles. In this way, it supports full-body relaxation. Verbal instructions are minimal and focus on little, aside from your body’s weight against the floor. It’s peak relaxation, making it very possible to accidentally fall asleep while doing it.
At face value, Yin yoga looks similar to restorative yoga, as there are similar poses that are held for similar amounts of time. The process and goal is different, however. In restorative yoga, the participant seeks ease and relaxation. But Yin aims to apply gentle pressure to the body’s connective tissue while in poses, leading to a feeling of tension on the areas being stretched.
In fact, there is a somewhat heated debate in the yoga and exercise science community about the safety of Yin yoga. Bernie Clark, a well-known instructor and author, makes his case here, saying that Yin Yoga seeks to “stress” and not dangerously “stretch” connective tissue: and that this has been misinterpreted by its critics.
You will definitely not fall asleep during Yin practice — at least, you probably should not — and special attention is needed regarding appropriate alignment, because passive (as opposed to active) stretching is occurring. Gravity does most of the work. The poses lend to allowing your involved body parts to hang in the air, toward the earth, targeting a stretch of the connected joint and surrounding tissue with no intentional pressure applied. It is possible to overdo the release and overstretch an area, so proceed with thoughtful caution.
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Finally, Prepare Yourself for Your Yoga Practice
So once you have considered the above, it’s time to actually begin your yoga practice. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Find the video or other source material you want to draw your practice from. Light on Yoga, by B. K. S. Iyengar, is a wonderful primary text for Hatha/Iyengar-style yoga. This style of yoga focuses on precise alignment and optimal positioning in poses, often requiring the use of props, such as blocks, blankets, and straps.
- Refrain from practicing soon after eating anything but a light snack. I think of yoga like swimming, especially if you will be completing an active practice. So lay off any heavy foods beforehand.
- Assess how your body feels. Are you nursing any injuries? Absolutely exhausted? Do you need a meal or nap more than you need yoga right now? After all, doing yoga is not an obligation! Change course and stop at any time during your practice if you need to take care of yourself. This is 100 percent non-negotiable!
- Give yourself focused quiet time. Turn off your phone, ask for space from loved ones, and get down to it (literally!).
Personalize Your Yoga Experience as Best You Can
Through trial and error, I’ve learned the benefit of setting up my own intentional yoga time and area to practice in. Randomly plopping down on the living room floor mid-afternoon, with a belly full of bean soup, three cats meowing at me, and my phone ringing with spam calls, has taught me what not to do. So many things in life can lead to feelings of overwhelm for introverts: Does yoga really need to be one of them?
My absolute favorite thing about doing yoga in the privacy of my own home is that I can practice however I want. I can wear what I want — typically lounge clothes — and light my favorite scented candle. I can pause the video mid-sequence to refill my tea. And any awkwardness shifting from pose-to-pose is only felt by me; it’s not visible to others.
Being my most authentic self in the solitude of the moment brings an increased sense of calm to an activity already celebrated for its stress-reduction properties. I believe it can do the same for you.
You might like:
- 4 Ways Yoga Helped Me Break Out of My Awkward Introvert Shell
- How Yoga Helped Me Embrace My Introversion
- 4 Meditation Tips for Introverts Who Struggle to Focus
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