During one of my group classes, a student of mine arrived with her sister, who was new to Yoga. My student had not been in my classes for quite some time, but she enjoyed my classes and was very enthusiastic to have her sister with her. My student reassured her sister that I focus on teaching students and not postures, and that I could adapt practices as necessary.
The woman new to Yoga shared that she had a long-standing back pain for which she had never had a formal consultation on. I asked if she knew of any postures that she should avoid and she said she did not know. I decided that my first few postures would be supine (on the back). After some gentle movements with the feet and legs, the woman new to Yoga then gradually complained of back pain, and then she shared the extent of her back problems which consisted of not being comfortable of lying flat on the back. The remainder of the class was devoted to finding a posture that could ease her from pain - seeing if she could have an active (posture) practice at all - for which I quickly assessed that she could not.
My priority became reducing her from the pain she was feeling. Side-lying offered her comfort, and happened to be the only posture that she could be in in order to sleep. I showed her how to use blankets to ensure she was not cramping her neck, checked the sway in her back, and made sure that her knees were bent just enough so that she neither had a deep sway nor a pronounced rounding of her lower back. I placed a bolster between her legs, then saw her face ease and break out into a sweet smile, afterwhich she exhaled a soft, but perceptible sigh.
I offered an iRest® Yoga Nidra practice, which I typically dont do as the sole practice in this particular class. But it was a practice that I could offer wherein both students could participate in. Both students enjoyed the practice, and said that it gave them a relaxed energy that was a good start to enjoy the remainder of their day. The woman new to Yoga felt that she was not able to "practice" Yoga and I assured her that she did - I assured her that posture practice alone does not make a practice - "Yoga".
I teach function over form (one could also phrase that as form through acknowledging function) precisely for people like the woman new to Yoga.
Seeing her smile with relief, and making sure she was in a position that was stable, where she could breathe with ease, where she could lengthen and deepen her breath WAS "Yoga". Offering her a practice that could ease physical tension, calm her mind, offer some lightness of being and clarity WAS "Yoga".
The woman new to Yoga and her sister had a taste of"Yoga" - and they were lying down, not forming awe-inspiring or bendy shapes with their bodies. Its not about being bendy. Its about restoring balance where it is needed. This is why I am a therapeutic yoga teacher.