Career change: Karen Klutznick discovers yoga and goes from real estate to ayurveda By Kevin Davis Dec. 14, 2009 When she went to work for her father's real estate development company in the early 1980s, Karen Klutznick felt compelled to dress the part: navy pinstriped Anne Klein suit, silk blouse, faux necktie, briefcase.
"I would put on the costume every day and pretend I was a business lady," she says. "It never felt natural to me."
Ms. Klutznick, 47, nonetheless stayed put for 22 years. A French major who later earned an MBA, she had decided to work with her dad, Thomas Klutznick, to get to know him better. She made her way up the ladder of the family business, whose landmarks include Water Tower Place.
She thrived on the challenges of bringing major projects to fruition, from developments in Pebble Beach, Calif., to the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago; she even launched an online cosmetics business on the side in 1999. But four years later, she just felt overwhelmed.
"I had just turned 40, and I didn't like what I looked like or felt like," she says. "And I was stressed."
She took a yoga class and barely made it though, but she felt invigorated. Her instructor, James Tennant, 36, recommended a body detox program at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M.
Ms. Klutznick visited there several times, learning to eat healthier and to relax. She lost weight, lowered her cholesterol and began chanting and meditating. Eventually she enrolled as a full-time student for two years, which led to a certificate as an ayurvedic practitioner, a profession that does not require a license.
"She was living a completely different life there," says Mr. Tennant, who attended the school at the same time. "There was a lot less luxury. I think she came out with a fresh perspective."
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old Indian folk medicine aimed at restoring balance to people's lives through diet, yoga, meditation and spiritual practices. Ms. Klutznick runs her consultancy out of a Gold Coast office, where visits are $100 per hour after an initial session costing $200. She also teaches classes at other locations.
"When you get a call from someone who says they're feeling better, that brings a different kind of joy than I felt in working in business," she says.
Longtime friend Courtney Thompson, 42, became a client. "She's incredibly, incredibly thorough," says Ms. Thompson, who now eats healthier, has felt her stress subside and was inspired to take yoga. "When she gives you counsel or advice, it's good stuff."
Ms. Thompson, a corporate communications professional, says her friend hasn't changed that much. "I can't say I see a radical change in Karen's personality," she says. "She is a businesswoman at the end of the day. She uses her creativity in a different way."
Ms. Klutznick has a long list of business and social contacts but says it can be awkward drawing on them as potential clients.
"I discuss my occupation in the same manner as everyone else does, but I don't push my business," she says. "Some people think alternative medicine is witch doctor-y, and it's not a debate I care to have in a social setting."
Ms. Klutznick, whose father gave his blessing to her career change, acknowledges that her substantial savings allowed her to launch her practice.
"I want to build my business by word of mouth, and I realize people don't have that luxury," she says. "So many of us are wandering around unhappy in our lives. You have to stop a second and find 'that thing.' Take a class, volunteer, do something that feeds your soul. You don't have to leave your career like I did."