A few weeks ago, I stumbled across yoga instructor, Jurian Hughes, and her dreamy wellness retreats. As I dug deeper, I learned that Jurian had made a career change going from theatre actress to yoga instructor and teacher. Not only did she pursue a new career path, but she did at the age of 40!
She’s a senior faculty member of the Kripalu School of Yoga in Massacusetts with experience leading thousands of workshops and programs. Additionally, she has trained over 1,000 Kripalu yoga teachers since 2006!
I love finding inspirational stories like these and sharing them with our readers. Thankfully, she agreed to let me interview her. Today I’m sharing the details of her career path, sacrifices, and advice for anyone looking to chart a new course.
Tell us about your Theatre/Broadway career. What led you down that path?
My theatre career was extensive. My Broadway career, specifically, was a bit more limited. I was part of The Graduate and Judgment at Nuremeberg on Broadway, a number of Off-Broadway shows, countless Regional Theatre productions and even an international production in Vienna, Austria. I was “called” to the theatre from a young age and began a dedicated, consistent course of study of acting at the age of 12. I lived and breathed Theatre for the next 30 years.
Was there something that led you to try yoga?
I had a wonderful therapist who coaxed me to try yoga – probably when she sensed that the benefits of ‘talk therapy’ had run their course for me. I can’t thank her enough for those many nudges!
When did you decide to pursue yoga as a full-time career?
I was “called” to yoga almost in the same way I was “called” to theatre. There simply was no other choice. I had said goodbye to acting as a profession and was in a transitional phase, feeling pretty lost. During that time I took my yoga teacher training at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in Stockbridge, MA. In the course of that training I was invited to join their fledgling internship program, which meant leaving the most lucrative job I’d ever had (though not one that made me happy), and moving into a dorm with 23 other women, and becoming, essentially, a volunteer for the next two years. It was not the most practical decision I’d ever made, but it was one I do not regret at all!
Did you have any fears as you were contemplating making the leap?
Choosing ‘yoga teacher’ as a profession is about as financially sound a decision as choosing to be an actor, so I wasn’t new to the idea of making an unconventional career choice. However, I did make the decision to start this new career path at 40. When most people are moving into their prime money-making years I chose another direction. I guess there must have been a part of me that wondered if I was making a horrible mistake, but honestly, it didn’t feel like there was any other path for me. It felt inevitable. I did struggle for years with the wish that my career choices were more “respectable” or “impressive”, but at some point the teachings of yoga allowed those inner voices to quiet down.
Were there any big sacrifices you had to make in order to make your dream come true?
I had to let go of attachment to what a lot of people strive for – financial stability, upward mobility. I never really considered having children. It didn’t feel like that was a possibility. But children were never “an inevitability” for me in the way that theatre or yoga was.
How long did it take to find your groove on this new path?
That’s hard to say. In some respects, I found my way quickly. I settled into life at Kripalu pretty quickly, and I’m still there, now a senior faculty member, 17 years later. But to really find my own voice and my own path in this world took quite a number of years.
What do you love most about your teaching?
There are so many things that I love about teaching. It’s a job that insists I continue to grow and learn, and that means it remains interesting. I place a high priority on what I call “authenticity” – teaching from an honest and transparent place – teaching from my own experience. This means that I’m always looking for value in my own life, which leads me to find value in it. I treasure the relationships that I’ve found over the years. The people that find their way to yoga and to my classes are kind, warm, supportive, and they tend to value what I value, so my teaching has helped me to find a large and wonderful community. And, of course, having yoga at the center of my life means that the teachings of these ancient spiritual practices are with me all the time, and that is an invaluable gift.
How has this career change positively impacted your life?
I thought that moving out of New York City would simplify my life. It’s still very complicated and busy, but my perspective on all the busy-ness has shifted. I still get down or anxious or overwhelmed, but I weather those storms so much better than I used to. I’m thrilled to have a job that utilizes my body, that keeps me moving and breathing and stretching and feeling and remembering that I’m not just a brain dragging around a couple of arms and legs.
What advice do you have for anyone contemplating making a career change?
Pay attention to where your joy comes from and then dare to honor that. Ask yourself what you really value – money? stability? prestige? Personally, those things don’t bring me joy. They’re powerful distractions, but they don’t actually make me happy. It can be scary, but take a risk to listen to what YOU want and not what the culture or your family of origin dictate you should want. And then do it. Nothing is in stone. You can always change course if you need to.
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