Yoga is physical and spiritual. After taking a break from any physical activity for more than 2 weeks, the body begins to lose strength, endurance, and flexibility. For this reason it is crucial to begin again slowly, since you won't be beginning from the same physical place you started at. Spiritually, yoga can be a part of a cathartic healing experience. A study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences showed that yoga made a significant difference in symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I've had students suddenly begin to cry during class. It is believed by many yoga and bodywork experts that emotional "scars" are physically manifested in the muscles, and when those muscles are stretched and manipulated, those emotions are released and the scars begin to heal.
For this particular student, I crafted a class (and no, the rest of the class wouldn't have noticed that I had one student in mind for the sequencing) that would be gentle yet challenging. We did quite a few grounding poses for the first chakra-Balasana (Child's Pose) and Virasana (Hero's Pose) to bring the mind into the body; and Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose) and lunges to tone and invigorate the legs. We also did a lot of heart openers to open the heart to giving and receiving love such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) and Ustrasana (Camel Pose). These backbends are also excellent for alleviating depression. We finished the class with Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall), a passive pose that calms a tired mind.
When crafting a sequence I have to keep balance in mind. I won't incorporate poses that I know some of my students can do that others can't without first teaching those poses properly. In this particular case, what was balm for this one student was also a lovely heart-opening class for the other students. It is my hope that she (and her loved one) achieve peace, through yoga or another means, and it is also my hope that this post gave a little insight into how I prepare my sequences for class.
Until next time, Namaste.