Why I Love Teaching Private Yoga Sessions

May 19, 2020

I’m good in a crowd. Though I’m never particularly at ease at a cocktail party, when it comes to teaching, I’ve always felt, the more, the merrier. I’m generally more comfortable with a large group than I am with a small one. For whatever reason, I find intimacy, connection, and a satisfying energetic support in numbers. It probably has to do with my years in theater; for the three decades that I trained and worked as a stage actor, I consistently practiced being fully present in front of large numbers of people.

Since becoming a Kripalu Yoga teacher 14 years ago, the bulk of my time has been spent in Kripalu classrooms filled with many students. Leading 90 guests in a Friday afternoon yoga class feels like home to me. In recent years, however, I’ve had increasing opportunity to move into a different arena—the most intimate of teaching settings: one-on-one yoga instruction. 

I used to worry that clients would expect me to be a medical doctor, physical therapist, spiritual guru, and miracle worker, all rolled into one. But as I’ve found myself doing more and more work with individuals, I’ve had a profound and eye-opening realization: Whether I’m leading a private yoga session, encouraging someone to free their voice, mentoring a young teacher, or coaching someone through a challenging transition in their life, I don’t have to have all the answers. People don’t expect that of me, and they don’t hire me for that reason. More often than not, clients are seeking a partner on a journey. There’s some physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual journey they long to take, and they’re looking for someone they trust to be on that journey with them.

I’ve never been the kind of teacher who says, “This is the way.” One of the central reasons I was so drawn to Kripalu Yoga is that it’s an inquiry-based practice, which respects every individual’s experience, and expects each person to take responsibility for their own individual experience. When two people—student and teacher, client and consultant, partners—are sincerely dedicated to the principle of inquiry, together, there is a tremendous potential for both people to learn, to grow, and to be truly empowered.

Here are a few (among many others) of the kind of questions that might bring you to private yoga session to begin that journey:

  • How can I sit and not be in pain?
  • How do I know if I’m doing a posture correctly?
  • How should I be breathing?
  • Can yoga help relieve this ache in my back?
  • Can I do yoga if I’m not flexible?
  • Should it hurt when I do this pose?
  • Can you help me develop a stronger practice?
  • I’d love to practice on my own, but I don’t know what to do.
  • What’s different about Kripalu Yoga?
  • How can I get my mind to quiet down?
  • I need a practice to help me sleep.
  • Can yoga help stress, anxiety, depression?
  • I’m not religious. Is yoga right for me?
  • I’m very religious. Is yoga right for me?
  • I’m an athlete. Can yoga help?

Since realizing that teaching one-on-ones does not mean I’m the expert who’s required to have all the answers, I’ve fallen in love with these opportunities to explore, play, and dive in. Each client, each situation, is unique, whether we meet for one session or a few dozen, in person or online. I’ve discovered that what is required of me is to show up and trust myself—the same thing that’s required of me as a teacher in a classroom full of students. And I love doing that. I love getting past my own fears and insecurities and into a creative space of flow; discovering in the moment what needs to be said and how, in order to help clarify something; riding the wave of the moment; practicing being present with what is. That is always exciting, always satisfying, always rewarding. For the opportunity to do that in my life, I am deeply grateful.

Jurian Hughes, E-RYT 500, YACEP, MFA, Kripalu School of Yoga senior faculty, is a Let Your Yoga Dance® teacher trainer, writer, speaker, performer, voice coach, and mentor.

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