Trusting What I Know: On Becoming a Private Yoga Teacher {Guest Post}

Today I am so honored to have my buddy Daisy sharing her wisdom with you. Daisy is a smart and fun yoga teacher; she teaches a creative and intelligently sequenced vinyasa class at Willow Street Yoga Center, where I teach also. She took my live teacher training in March of 2014 and has seen so much change in her teaching since then. Read on to hear about her journey and find some inspiration for your own teaching path!

Daisy 2As a yoga teacher, one of my biggest challenges has been to believe that what I have to offer students is useful and important.  I have had more than a handful of especially skilled teachers of my own.  When I became a teacher, I could hardly imagine why anyone would come to my class when they could go to someone else with a lot more experience and wisdom. Comparing my capacity to teach with what I have seen and experienced is always a very humbling experience. As my mother would say, “comparisons are odious,” but they are inevitable, and I have rarely thought I have enough to offer, even in big vinyasa flow classes.


I certainly had no expectations or even desire to teach private clients. How in the world would I do that?

Some of my most awkward moments as a teacher were very small classes, especially those painful few, early on, when only one student showed up. I had no idea how to teach or even behave, eg. should we still OM?  In full disclosure, one time I felt so awkward, I actually practiced with the student, as if that was really going to help either of us.

Obviously, teaching private clients wasn’t even on my radar. I had taught a few but awkwardly, and they hadn’t lasted.  But I have this great friend who has some back trouble, and he would periodically ask me to help him. I played coy for a long time. Then my husband started asking why? My answers were lame, if only because we were talking about a good friend, and if I was terrible, it didn’t really matter.

I agreed to give it a shot.  It felt natural and easy.  I worked hard to learn what was going on in his body, and to figure out ways to help him. I did a lot of research. I talked to people. I branched out beyond “yoga” in our sessions in some ways. I was really enjoying it. I felt like I was helping him, and I could see a difference in his movements and his body. I began using some of things I was doing with him in my public classes. I began to slow down and look at my students differently.

Enter Francesca.

I took her aligned vinyasa class at Willow Street Yoga Center. I loved it. I loved her. I wanted to be like her when I grew up, except I am WAY older than she is. I had a new yoga teacher crush. I kept taking her classes, teaching my one private, along with my weekly group classes, and feeling Francesca’s influence beginning to creep into my teaching in small ways. When her The Science of a Private Lesson™ training became an offering at Willow Street, I knew I wanted to take it, if only because I knew I wanted to learn more from Francesca.

The training lasted 5 days.  It was smart, thoughtful and thorough. It included big, lofty reflections on why we are doing this work and what we hope to achieve with our students and in our lives. We learned how teaching privates is an entirely different kind of teaching than what we do in a classroom, in almost all ways, including how you prepare, how you arrive and how you end your sessions.   We learned how to manage different kinds of space and various interruptions.  We discussed nitty gritty details on how to get clients, what to charge them, what to do about cancellations, and even how to handle the money exchange.

I learned a ton, some things I didn’t even expect to discuss.  It also felt deliciously indulgent to have such exquisitely crafted time to focus on myself as a teacher.

The training gave me five critical elements for my teaching:

  • A handful of very solid and even sweet reminders of why I am doing this work
  • A notebook full of practical skills, useful in the classroom and with private clients
  • A very long list of resources for how to improve my teaching, some large, some small
  • Empowerment to keep researching and learning new ways to help my clients, even if it means stepping outside of the yoga toolbox at times; and finally, perhaps the most important piece of all-
  • It taught me to trust what I already know, to believe that what I have to offer is unique and can be useful for my students.

I am not exactly sure how Francesca managed all of this, but she did.  I left Francesca’s training with a lot more confidence about my current capacity to teach private clients and public classes, and feeling very clear about what I know, what I don’t know and need to work on, what I have to offer, and what I want.

What more can you ask of any training? Seriously.

Less than a year later, I now have more than a handful of regular private clients that have literally tumbled into my lap one way or another, one of whom I see two times a week.

I love this work with each of them. It has become my favorite teaching work. I am always learning more. I know I still have a lot to learn about teaching yoga to individual bodies and their minds in private and public settings. This will always be true. But I do know a lot now.

I also realize that those skilled teachers I mentioned earlier, the ones that made me feel inadequate by comparison, all have their own unique offering. For one, it is anatomy; for another, it is presence; for a third, it is sophisticated and smart breath work; for some, it is just darn fun vinyasa flows.

I go to these teachers to get what I need when I need it.  I am realizing that students come to me in the same way. I cannot be all things a student needs, and I am not sure I can even articulate what it is that I offer students, individually in private sessions or collectively in classes.  But I know it is something. I am beginning to recognize it is something good, at least on some days. And I am learning to trust that what I know is worthy of sharing.

Daisy 1
Daisy Whittemore is a yoga teacher in the DC area, teaching private clients and public classes (aligned vinyasa, hatha, pre- and post-natal, yoga nidra). She encourages students to be in the moment, using breath and movement as critical allies for self-awareness and presence. Daisy infuses laughter and light into her challenging lessons, and welcomes the power of play (of which her children are her best teachers) as vector for growth and progress. She believes in home practice for all of her students and has developed an alter ego, Yoga Nag, to encourage students to do yoga on their own. Daisy completed her training in the Anusara style of yoga at Willow Street Yoga Center, and continues her study–as teacher and student–in alignment, sequencing, meditation, anatomy and private instruction from a wide range of teachers. To receive Daisy’s nags, read her blogs, or see her schedule, go to:

4 Responses to “Trusting What I Know: On Becoming a Private Yoga Teacher {Guest Post}”

  1. Juliet

    This is beautiful Daisy! I feel like we all wonder why our students choose us, but the more we stand in our power, the more we can be present with ourselves and the more people we can affect. 😉

  2. Erika

    Loved the article. It felt very supportive and affirming. And, “Yoganag” is BRILLIANT!!


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