My Kripalu Journey: Discovering the Yoga of Life

Photo by Jane Feldman

A little more than 12 years ago, I found myself at Kripalu for the first time. I was desperate to get out of New York, where life was stressful and not heading where I wanted it to. I’d spent most of my life up until that time as an actor (Broadway, off-Broadway, the regions, a little film and TV), but that career felt complete, and I’d fallen into producing corporate events, which didn’t seem to suit me at all. Despite the fact that I was making more money than I’d ever made in my life, I was irritable, depressed, tired, and lost.

I can’t even remember how I came up with the idea of Kripalu as a destination. The name seemed to float up mysteriously from somewhere at the very back of my brain, where someone had planted it in passing decades earlier. The idea of a yoga retreat center was exotic and strange, and filled me with more than a little angst: What did one do there? What did one wear? You mean I can show up on my own and not feel like a freak?

My angst disappeared quickly once I arrived. I’d chosen to stay in a D2, as it’s affectionately called—a dorm for two. I’d been paired with a lovely woman whose name I’m sad to say I can’t recall now, but whose being I remember well otherwise—how welcoming she was; how we sat on our beds and talked at length like old friends; how she made sharing a small room with a stranger feel like the most normal thing in the world.

Figuring out the Dining Hall etiquette helped set me at ease as well: Sit down and join others without waiting for an invitation, or simply enjoy eating alone without feeling like an outcast. What a novelty!

With my sleeping and eating concerns taken care of, I threw myself into yoga and dance classes, workshops, hikes, massage. I recall crying that weekend. A lot. And I remember what a great relief it was to be in a place where no one seemed to think me odd for that. And so, I let go more. More tears, more laughter, more of myself, free to let go of things I didn’t even know I was holding onto.

The highlight of that visit was a Let Your Yoga Dance® class with Megha Nancy Buttenheim. I didn’t know what magic this woman was working, but it made me feel giddy and powerful and childlike and so alive! I couldn’t possibly dream then that this woman would become not only a mentor and colleague, but also a cherished friend and business partner. I had no idea that this “dance of the chakras” would change my life forever. After that weekend, I went home, signed up for the training, somewhere along the way quit my job, and eventually moved to Kripalu and never looked back.

The next couple of years were some of the happiest I’ve had. As an intern in the Kripalu School of Yoga, I worked—and laughed, a lot!—alongside amazingly creative and talented teachers, generous and courageous souls who taught me so much about passion and service, the yoga of asana, and, most importantly, the yoga of relationship. I was—and still am—so proud to have joined this lineage of Kripalu teachers. Observing, learning from, and ultimately teaching beside so many of these teachers over the years has been life changing.

In all my Kripalu teachers, I saw a dedication to truth, a passion to keep growing, and a generosity of spirit that extended to me and to every person that walked in the room, and an intense determination to live yoga off the mat.

Though I still love, teach, and practice hatha yoga (asana and pranayama), it’s the yoga of life that intrigues me most now. The yoga that moves off the mat and into the living room, the grocery aisle, behind the wheel of my car. I want the yoga practices of compassion, contentment, truth, surrender to be so ingrained in me that they follow me through every part of my day. I may not do them perfectly—not by a long shot sometimes!—but I endeavor to be yoga to the best of my ability at any given moment.

That’s what coming to Kripalu for the first time 12 years ago for has done for me. I like who I am as a human being more because of it. The fact that being a teacher of these practices now gives me the opportunity to pass on some of that to someone else is inspiring, sometimes daunting—and never short of amazing.

Find out about upcoming programs with Jurian Hughes.

Jurian Hughes, E-RYT 500, MFA, is a Kripalu School of Yoga faculty member, Let Your Yoga Dance® trainer, voice coach, and theater artist and mentor.

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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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