Reclaiming Your Voice to Transform Your Life

Sometimes reclaiming your voice means letting it ring out, whether in tune or not. Sometimes it means taking back your power in a situation that once silenced you. And sometimes it means writing a letter to your local paper.

“I recently wrote a letter to the editor in which I shared publicly for the first time that I terminated a pregnancy in my 20s,” says Jurian Hughes, a Kripalu Yoga teacher and Kripalu School of Yoga faculty member. “After it was published, I received hundreds of supportive responses. I didn’t think I had anything to let go of around that, but now I feel even lighter, because I put it out there. Something shifted for me on a cellular level. Also, writing that letter opened the door to an intimate and meaningful conversation with my 90-year-old mother about the subject, something I will be forever grateful for.”

Jurian is the founder of the Yoga of Voice, an approach that supports people in rediscovering their authentic voice, so they can more fully communicate and express themselves in all areas of life. Her teaching combines her background in theater and dance—her roles span Broadway, off-Broadway, European productions, film, television, and voiceover—with her deep immersion in the practice and philosophy of yoga.

In her Yoga of Voice programs, Jurian fuses chanting, pranayama, and asana with principles and exercises from the world of theater. Although vocalizing is part of the experience, Jurian emphasizes that these are not singing or public-speaking workshops (although singers, teachers, and speakers find the process both instructive and joyful). Her goal is to create opportunities for people to zero in on the places in their life where they’re not speaking their truth, and get unstuck.

“Many of us learn in childhood, adolescence, or somewhere else along the way that speaking the truth is dangerous, selfish, unwanted, or makes others uncomfortable,” Jurian says. “Working with the audible voice helps us reawaken our ability to be bold and free.”

Jurian is particularly interested in how society stifles girls' and women’s voices. “Boys are culturally brought up to be brave, while girls are brought up to be right, to do things correctly,” she notes. “Girls aren’t encouraged to take risks, and that’s very connected to the way we use—or don’t use—our voices.” She’s fascinated by the research on how this dichotomy shows up—in a computer science class, for example, where boys will think big and take chances while girls focus on getting the code just right, or in the fact that women won’t apply for a job unless they have 100 percent of the qualifications, while men will often go for it with just 50 percent.

In energetic terms, Jurian explains, blockages around voice and self-expression are related to the fifth chakra—the throat chakra—which rules communication and self-expression. In her programs, she guides people in using sound, breath, movement, and chakra work to free up energy in this area, while letting go of judgment around whether they’re doing it “right.” Below, she guides a Sun Salute with sound.

These practices can create profound shifts, Jurian says: People find that they can have that conversation they’ve been too scared to have, be more present in a relationship, change the dynamic in a work situation, or write the book they’ve been dreaming about.

“In the same way that we do yoga postures to cultivate strength and flexibility in the physical body, and the mind and the heart get stronger and more flexible as a result, that’s what happens with the voice,” she says. “As we cultivate more volume and resonance, we learn to become more resonant in our lives, to take up more space, and to project ourselves farther into the world.”

Find out about programs with Jurian Hughes at Kripalu.