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La Coaché Vita

Personal gurus are the new It accessory. DuJour takes on the one-on-one

At the start of a crowded vinyasa class at my favorite Manhattan yoga studio, an incredibly sculpted instructor—who was not our actual teacher—staccato-thumped a student’s back, adjusted his seated posture and outlined goals for his practice. As she stepped back to adjust the two video cameras she’d set up to film him over the next 90 minutes, the student gave his cheeks several solid slaps and unleashed a resounding “horse lips” exhalation, taking no notice of his neighboring students shooting him downright un-yogic looks.

The class began, led by the studio teacher, who took the pair, stationed in the front row, in stride. As we moved through sun salutations, I couldn’t help but focus on the duo as the woman danced around her pupil’s mat, pushing him into postures, leading him in a class within a class.

A follow-up inquiry revealed that this is the thing: studio-sanctioned “private in-class” lessons that allow students to get the sort of individualized instruction formerly reserved for decidedly less public settings. And while this particular studio requires that you hire their teachers, others are open to an even more customized route: bringing your private instructor to class. “For those that can afford it, what better way to complement your custom workout than with a ‘personal wellness expert’ who can work out with you and dine out with you and choose what you should or shouldn’t do?” asks celebrity trainer David Kirsch, who has built his business around this kind of service. And as Dana Santas, a private yoga coach who commands $250 an hour, plus travel fees, to accompany clients around the country, says, “I don’t want my clients going into yoga studios alone and risking being touched by instructors who don’t know anything about the needs or issues of their bodies.”

Not only do we obsessively seek advice on life matters that were once private—What’s my next career move? Who should I marry? Vegan or Paleo? How should I raise my kid?—but now we want coaches to literally walk us through that life. And they will. New York– and Palm Beach–based “concierge relationship specialist” Palika Trudeau, a consultant for people in every stage of coupling, began working with a client to help him get over a painful breakup, but stayed on to help vet future romances. After attending a first-date fund-raiser incognito—carefully noting eye contact, facial expressions and body language between the client and his date—and the next few as well, she green-lit the romance. The couple now introduces her to friends as their personal “relationship consultant” and calls upon her when problems arise. “Often I know what’s good for my clients better than they do themselves,” she says. “I expect to be a part of their life for the long run.”

A 24-7 personal support system is a key component of Joie Meal Support’s philosophy as well. The L.A.-based business launched two years ago, offering meal companions who come to your home, to your office or on your lunch or dinner date to ensure you stick with your diet. Though the company started with a focus on aiding those suffering from eating disorders, Joie’s therapists and dietitians are increasingly being hired to work with anyone who wants assistance cooking and eating. Co-founder Melissa Javaherian points to one client, an entertainment exec in her mid-forties, who “has problems with overeating and mindless grazing.” Meal companions come to her home to prep food and eat with her and accompany her to restaurants. “Being successful amid the stimuli and stressors of life ensures a higher success rate than only being successful in a contained, safe environment,” says Javaherian. “Having a companion prevents her from overeating in a non-judgmental and non-threatening way.”

Trudeau, who fields early morning and late-night calls and texts, insists, “Any successful person would be proud to have an important part of their life under high-quality management, just like their finances. It shows they really have it all.”