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Career Moves: From HBO to Yoga Teacher

Although she now works harder than ever, this Iyengar Yoga teacher doesn't miss the world of glamour, glitz, and celebrities she left behind.

By Susan R. Cohen

Leslie Peters, currently the director of the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles, left the world of glamour, glitz, and limos at HBO in Los Angeles where she was associate manager of talent relations.

Peters began her career in New York City as the assistant manager of a rock 'n' roll band. She handled the band's publicity, escorting them to The Today Show and the MTV Awards. In 1985, she moved to Los Angeles and began working as a temporary hire at HBO. She was immediately hired as an executive assistant and four years later moved into the Talent Relations department and her position as the liaison between HBO and actors, directors, producers, and writers. She handled all promotional efforts for the celebrities, including screening parties, media events, and travel arrangements.

Many people might envy Peters' job. She traveled the country with award-winning stars, hosted parties for the top names in Hollywood, and was working with one of the best entertainment companies in the world. A typical assignment was traveling to New Orleans to tape a musical special with the Neville Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Dennis Quaid, and Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes. She had an unlimited expense account and a "generous and supportive" boss who was conveniently 3,000 miles away. Despite a glamorous position and the autonomy, Peters did not feel happy with her job.

"I knew deep inside that my inner world was in conflict with my external world," she says. "My values and philosophy of life were at odds with what I was doing. I was devoting my life to those more fortunate than myself and catering to 'needs' like cell phones, hotel reservations, and expensive gifts. The job was like eating too much candy."

Peters started to practice yoga. At first, she was reluctant. But when her boyfriend presented her with a gift certificate for an introductory course and one month of unlimited yoga classes, it was difficult not to accept.

Peters started taking two to three yoga classes a week at the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles. Her chronic headaches began to disappear. Her injuries as a result of regular aerobics began to heal. Although she did not really enjoy yoga, she continued. Something inside her told her it was good for her.

The power of yoga did not hit Peters like a lightening rod: "It was like a slow, leaky faucet," she says. "Each drop eventually filled me up until I felt that yoga had penetrated me through and through. Over time, I began to see and feel the benefits." Yoga was also nudging Peters to face her dissatisfaction with her job. "Yoga was like a wake-up call that clarified for me that I needed to do something different." To counter her frustration with HBO, she enrolled in a three-year Iyengar Yoga teacher's training program to intensify her personal yoga practice.

A pastor's daughter, Peters craved a job where she could help improve the lives of those needing help. She was accepted into the Master's Program at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. "I wanted to create mass media campaigns for developing nations on things like AIDS and family planning," she says. Peters was happier at work knowing that her job would change in the future.

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