Meet Amy Jo. A full time yoga instructor living in Rochester, NY. Read her story about leaving her administrative career, moving across the country and the struggles of starting her own yoga and meditation studio. Not only does she have an awesome story, she’s also a fellow tea drinker and an enthusiastic knitter! Her IG @amyjometzendorf is filled with cozy shots of her wonderful knits paired with Pyne and Smith dresses and, of course, her adorable beagle, Lucy!
Check out her studio website
I’m Amy Jo, an enthusiastic knitter, tea drinker, yoga and meditation teacher, and studio co-owner. I live in Rochester, NY, right on Lake Ontario. My spouse and I moved here 12 years ago from Seattle. We’ve been married 21 years, and met in college in the midwest. He works as a professor at a local university. We have a sweet little beagle with confidence issues named Lucy.
In college I studied Soviet history and the Russian language, so this has been an interesting path! I worked in the non-profit and local government field for several years in Seattle while my spouse was getting his PhD. I performed well at my administrative jobs, but what made me good at them also made me feel pretty miserable. I had started taking yoga classes at a neighborhood studio to find a way to better work with stress and anxiety, and after a few years, I decided to take a teacher training when my teacher offered one. I loved teaching, and on one of our visits to the Oregon coast (my favorite place), my spouse and I hatched a plan for me to leave my job in a year’s time to teach yoga.
We moved into a studio apartment, became our building’s managers, and saved all the money we could. In retrospect, this was not the most sensible move! But I did it, and pretty quickly after leaving my job, I was able to cobble together a full-time teaching schedule all over the city. This was in 2004. I was fortunate that my spouse also started teaching full time, and we had health insurance through the university.
In 2007, we moved to Rochester after he was offered a tenure-track teaching job. It was a really difficult transition for me, as I didn’t know anyone here and had to make new connections to find work. I missed my community back in Seattle. I pieced together a schedule in time, and a few years later, decided to strike out and open a yoga studio with a dear friend and fellow teacher.
This was both terrifying and exciting! My partner and I vowed not to go into debt to open our business, since we really didn’t know if it would work. We kept it low-key, had an incredible amount of support and donated labor from friends and family, and kept it just the two of us the first year, since we were only able to pay ourselves sporadically. We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary year now, very thankfully! We have lovely teachers, and a welcoming, supportive community of students. We’re still quite low-tech and very simple (just yoga and meditation classes, no credit cards or internet access, no fancy software programs or retail), and this has worked pretty well for us. We haven’t built a yoga empire, but that’s not what we want the business to be. We’re able to pay ourselves and our teachers, and the studio has been able to support itself.
After 15 years of teaching 8-12 classes a week, I definitely experience peaks and valleys in terms of inspiration. And my teaching has certainly changed over time. Working with all the inevitable changes that come, all the crises of confidence, this whole messy and pretty glorious life thing IS the practice. I’m reminded of one of my favorite passages from Zen teacher Norman Fischer:
“In the shaping of our lives, we pay a fair amount of attention to skill and effort, to intelligence, talent, good looks, technique, training, education, and so on. But it seems to me that a primary virtue is the simple ability to be persistent with what you do, to not look for quick fixes or miracle cures, to be able to go on with a good feeling come what may.”
(from Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up)
What does a normal day look like for you?
The rhythm of my days vary somewhat, depending on my teaching schedule and whether or not it’s my turn to walk the pup in the morning. Right now, I teach two mornings and and four evenings a week. Fall is the busiest time for me work-wise, since in addition to my ongoing weekly studio classes I also teach a twice-a-week yoga & meditation course at a local university. Teaching a much younger age group is a fun challenge and a good stretch for me (pun intended, ha!), and I really enjoy it.
Today is a teaching-free morning, so the first order of the day is feeding and walking our beagle girl. After our walk, I make my breakfast (a green smoothie and peanut butter toast, every day), and drink a huge mug of black tea (no caffeine-free herbal blends here!). My favorite teas for a morning wake-up are Keemun, Yunnan, or Nilgiri. I try to drink my tea somewhat mindfully, especially since I enjoy it so much, but this doesn’t always happen. I try to get some good work time in before checking social media sites…I just feel better this way. Some mornings I knit with my tea sipping. I’ve got a sweater and many pairs of socks on the needles now.
After getting studio stuff done (website maintenance, brochure/flyer work, e-mails), I do some prep work for a new meditation program I’m introducing to my college class later this week. I make myself lunch (salad greens with soba noodles, veggies, and eggs on the menu for this week), take Lucy on another walk, and start thinking about what I want to cover for classes later this afternoon and evening. Another big mug of black tea is a must (a smoked Lapsang Souchong is perfect as the weather cools off), preferably sitting out on my front step, surrounded by our overgrown garden with a multitude of pollinators, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds stopping at the feeder all keeping me company. After teaching my afternoon/evening classes, I’m famished and ready to not talk so much.
This week, dinner is pasta with tempeh meatballs and homemade marinara sauce that we put up last summer. We just made our first batch of this season’s sauce, so we need to free up some freezer space! After dinner, my spouse and I meditate together using a guided meditation from the Ten Percent Happier app. We’re on a 135-day streak of practice, and seeing the number grow is a good motivator on nights we feel not-so-motivated! After that, it’s more knitting, maybe some reading (I’m really trying to make more time for pleasure-reading these last months), then off to bed.
I enjoy teaching very much, but find that I really need a good amount of quiet time to balance it out so I don’t get overly tired or cranky. I try to check in with myself a lot over the course of the day as to how I’m feeling, and figure out how I can accompany myself through whatever is there. I’m working to show up for myself with as much goodwill and friendliness as possible, and to link this big intention with my daily actions as often as I can remember to.