How do you teach when you have shitty family drama going on?

A question from our community…

“How do you show up and teach (especially an intimate, vulnerable private lesson) when you are in the midst of a really challenging life situation?”


“Can you please blog about how to manage family dynamics/communications/still showing up to teach so it doesn’t rip your brain apart?”

Ah yes. I am so so happy you guys finally brought this up. This is a tough one, and something that I am sure you all have dealt with. I know I certainly have been through this…{am going through this…}.

When we teach group classes there is often a touch of performing to it, isn’t there? We are leading a group through a complicated sequence, making sure everyone’s alignment is safe and clear, and skillfully interweaving dharmic ideas through the asana class. Everyone has their own style, and some styles have more of a performance-y vibe to them than others, but we all have to perform a little bit to manage the energy of a large group class.

A private session is different. It is much more intimate and vulnerable and, {this part is super important!} not just for the student, but for you, the teacher as well.

It is your job to create and hold a sacred container for yoga, often in a less than desirable location. The student is looking to you to create a session that meets their deepest physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, and right there on the spot no less! That creates a lot of vulnerability for you. On top of that, if you are with a client you have known for some time, they will like and care about you, and want to know what is going on in your life. It is an intimate relationship, but one in which you are responsible for creating and maintaining boundaries.

When you have hard things happening in your life this will feel extra challenging.

You may ask::

How can I be authentic without sharing too much of my personal story with my clients?
How can I take care of someone else when I am in so much suffering?
How can I have anything useful to teach when I feel like such a mess?

You can and you will.

This is where the depth of your practice makes all the difference.

Now don’t hear me say, “You have to always drink green juice in the morning and meditate 45 minutes a day and always do an advanced asana practice and never be angry…and… and…”

That is not what I am saying. I do not mean that kind of “deep” practice.

The deepest self care practice is the one in which you consistently hold space for yourself, and recognize and allow what is. {Share me.}

When there is depth and consistency in that practice you will always be able to be authentic without oversharing.

When you have a deep well to pull from you will be able to be a source of light and inspiration for your students {no matter how shitty things are}.

When you remember there is an innate goodness within, you will be able to find a useful teaching to share with your students, no matter how much you are also hurting.

You can and you will.

I have been through heartbreaking life changes while in the middle of teaching a very full time private client schedule. {Debilitating injuries, massive breakups, big moves, and tragic family drama.} All the while I keep showing up to teach, and feel so grateful for the practice that sustains me, and my awesome students who keep me on my toes.

You must have enough self awareness to know what you are feeling. You must recognize and allow it to exist. And then you must dig deeper within yourself. You may have to pull from the reserves of your well, but as long as you have been digging {with your practice} and refilling {with your practice} there will be something down there to pull from.

I promise.

A note from a recent graduate of my teacher training program::

“One reason  that allowed for this new found clarity was the emphasis on creating and holding a space with my authentic presence. That idea was transformative, as well as the reminder that came from it: “you can’t heal/help others if you can’t heal or help yourself.” I took this to heart during the week. I felt Francesca’s authentic presence and it radiated to us as trainees. I felt myself raising my own bar that week, and I’ve been continuing to afterward. I worked to check myself more often, and worked to no longer be a victim or act out when I was feeling upset in any way. Francesca reminded us that beneath any and all hardship, you still can call upon your innate goodness and peace if you look for it. You don’t have to always be in tip-top shape in order to give an excellent yoga session that can deeply affect clients for the better. You can still have healing to do yourself without mixing your “issues” into everything you do.”

You can and you will.

Share with me below:: What do you find most challenging about teaching when you are under emotional duress of your own?

10 Responses to “How do you teach when you have shitty family drama going on?”

    • Francesca Cervero

      I am so with you JB. I always feel SO MUCH better after I teach. How lucky are we to have a job that does that? X

  1. Lisa Marie

    I would much rather take yoga from a teacher who has experienced life’s difficult moments. Moving through that gives them the depth to inspire their students.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Yes, totally Lisa Marie! I would also much rather study with a teacher who felt authentic in their humanness, rather than with someone who felt like a performer all the time. Sending love…

  2. Lauren Buck

    Thanks for this post. I agree with Jennifer — when things are at their worst, I never want to teach. I want to numb out on HGTV or something. But I always feel better for teaching. Sometimes I literally just say the things I need to hear and do — I guide myself into dropping into the breath, relaxing certain areas and getting into the body — and then I can help my student. Like there is a more aware part of me I can tap into and help the both of us.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Yes! How awesome Lauren. Thanks for sharing. {We teach what we most need to learn, right?} <3

  3. Kathe Hannauer

    This post was so timely for me, Francesca. Thank you so much!
    Several times recently, I have found myself heading toward the studio wondering how I will ever pull it together to teach a class. In the end, I find that immersion In the teaching process(combined with focusing on something other than my problems) has a profound healing effect, and some of my best, clearest teaching has resulted from this. The self-care part of the process comes harder for me, so thank you for the reminder 🙂

    • Francesca Cervero

      Yes, Kathe! I, too, have done some of my most lucid and deep teaching when I was going through some serious rough patches. Sending you love, as always…

  4. Stephanie

    My big challenge is staying present and authentic when I’m going through a difficult time. In the past, “keeping it together” meant trying to ignore the pain and pretending to be ok, which I see now disconnects me from the student and the experience. I think I’ve always thought the choice was between that and letting myself fall apart and then having to overshare as apology.

    I am starting to see now what you are talking about–letting my practice give me the resource to draw from in difficult times, so that I can continue to give authentically. It makes the commitment to a full practice less scary.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Awesome! I am so happy to hear that is starting to make sense to you Stephanie. {And I am really happy to hear from you!}. Sending love…


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