I have known Danielle since September 2008, when I started taking yoga classes with her at the Richmond Village Beacon Community Center in San Francisco, California. These classes were offered free of charge to the community by this nonprofit organization. Danielle’s class was not the first yoga class I had taken (I have been taking yoga classes sporadically since 1996), but she is by far my favorite yoga teacher and, under her tutelage, I practiced yoga more consistently than I ever have at any time in my life. While I was her student, I became pregnant, at age 40, with my first child and I continued taking her classes twice a week right up until I gave birth. I credit my extremely positive pregnancy and quick childbirth (3 hours of active labor, completely natural childbirth with no I.V./drugs, and my son Kai was born completely healthy at 6 lbs, 11 oz) largely to these classes with Danielle.
As a yoga teacher, Danielle had students of diverse ages, cultural backgrounds, English proficiency, prior yoga practice and varying abilities. For many yoga teachers, this wide range of abilities and skills would present a challenge and probably even raise resentment. Danielle handled this situation beautifully and skillfully. She made special effort to get to know each student’s name and welcomed every person into the class, even students who could not speak English. For these students, she asked for help from other bilingual students who could help translate her instructions for them.
Danielle especially enjoyed teaching students new to yoga and helping them to establish a foundation that would allow them to be comfortable in any other yoga class. Within the classroom environment, she worked with each student individually to help each of us progress in our yoga practice. Her gentle adjustments, encouraging words, and judicious use of humor put everyone at ease and enabled each of us to reach our own personal aspirations in our practice. She was especially careful to explain to us how not to overdo the poses. She taught us the proper use of props such as straps, blocks, blankets, and sandbags to gently help our bodies to safely open up further. She helped us to overcome our fears of difficult poses, such as the camel pose, in which you bend backward while on your knees and try to reach the back of your heels with your hands. At the beginning of each class, she checked in with us and asked us if there were any special needs or requests we had and she always accommodated those requests. During the later stages of my pregnancy, Danielle made sure that I didn’t do any poses that were bad for my baby and gave me special instructions to do alternative poses that were good for me and my baby. She even gave me a book by B.K.S Iyengar on pregnancy poses.
As the first yoga teacher employed by the Richmond Village Beacon to teach this community class, Danielle was unusually invested in being the best teacher she could be and instrumental in setting a high standard for all instructors hired by this organization. Due to her enthusiastic teaching, the class enrollment increased to the point that the Beacon was able to secure more funding.