We had the good fortune of connecting with AmyLea Hodges and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi AmyLea, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am originally from East Tennessee, but spent much of my early years growing up in Florida, Hawaii, and northern Virginia. I am sure living with people from other cultures, especially in Hawaii influenced me greatly when I became exposed to yoga. I have always studied dance and gymnastics, and already understood the discipline and training it takes to excel in any endeavor. I also experienced the strength and peace that comes from such devotion to any discipline.

Ironically, I started practicing yoga when I returned to Tennessee and studied biology and psychology to become a psychotherapist. As I obtained my degrees in the field, I taught yoga to help with finances. By the time I had a graduate degree, I knew yoga would always be part of my life, and as I began working in the mental health field, I realized that for me the better way to help people find total health was through teaching yoga. I soon dove completely into working full-time at it. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the only way I was going to be able to afford to devote my life and career to yoga was to own my own business.

I started small, but now have a studio and teach classes throughout the day. The business has grown quickly, and I have also expanded it to the internet. I am currently working toward increasing my online presence. That is a new endeavor for me. I hope to spend the rest of my life perfecting my practice and to helping others find the benefits of yoga.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
What sets me apart from other yoga instructors is my background in biology and psychotherapy. I have studied and practiced yoga religiously, and I continue to do so. Therefore, I know the field, and from my education in biology, I also understand how the bones, muscles, tendons, and nerves work together. Understanding the body in such a way is a plus when working with clients with recent or past injuries, with elderly clients and with those who have any sort of physical problems. Also, my studies in psychology and psychotherapy have enhanced my understanding of how to use yoga as a way to help clients find strength and calm. I am most thankful when student tell me stories of how their doctors ask them what they have done to gain such improvement, and when they tell them they take yoga regularly, the doctors are amazed and tell them to continue doing so. While I might have expected to meet with more resistance from those in the medical field, I have been impressed with so many doctors encouraging their clients to continue to take yoga – or even recommending that people take it, and that is how some have wound up in my studio.

I became a yoga instructor while I was studying for my degrees in psychology and psychotherapy in order to help with expenses, never dreaming that at the same time I was following the road that would lead to my life’s work, also never knowing how the university degrees would not lead to a career I thought, but that the knowledge I learned from them would enable me to be the kind of yoga instructor I have come to be. I find it amazing how the universe leads us to the path we are meant to follow if we are open to it.

Financially, it was harder to follow the yoga path, as working for other people hardly made ends meet. That is how I came to open my own business. It became clear that the only way I was going to be able to support myself and be able to make a lifetime career in yoga was to own my own business. So, I took the proverbial leap of faith and quit working at all the gyms where I worked, created my own studio in a part of my house, and “set up shop.,” so to speak. I have continued to enhance the studio, adding the best equipment needed and creating a calm, peaceful place for clients to glean the most out of their yoga experiences. I will never be satisfied with things as they are, but will always be finding ways to make yoga more fulfilling for my clients and myself.

I have learned much from my yoga experience, and I know there are many lessons for me to continue to learn. One of the most important things I have come to realize, is to never give up when you know you are doing what you were put on this earth to do. Another is that everyone is special, from the most challenged yogi to the most gifted. And, equally important, is that doors open when you persevere, sometimes from the least expected places and people. And finally, all life is special, from a blade of grass to the tallest oak tree, from a tiny ant to the giant whale. This connection with all things is what keeps us balanced – not a perfect body or mind, but an awareness that we are all one.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, in the area around the Great Smokey Mountains. If I took a visiting friend to peaceful and fun places for a week, much of the time would be spent taking hikes and picnics, not only in the national park itself, but also in lesser known places around the area. Panther Creek Park is within a few miles of where I live, and it is a great place to camp out and hike. Besides the creek that runs through it, Cherokee Lake and forests also surrounds it. You can even arrange to take canoe rides, learning to canoe in you don’t know how. My friend and I would definitely visit Panther Creek Park. Another fun place to visit if you want a great meal cooked for you and still enjoy the beauties of nature is Off the Hook, a restaurant on Cherokee Lake where you can eat on a large deck overlooking the water. And, the great thing is that it is less than ten miles from where I live! There is also Douglas Lake and it is also a short drive from my home; it is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains. I also teach a free class once a month through the summer season on the Dandridge Boat Dock, which is on Douglas Lake; hopefully, my friend would be visiting during once if those weekends. For a change of pace, we’d have to go to Old Town Knoxville where you can dine and wine from many unique restaurants – one of our favorites is Southern Grit that is locally owned – and breweries, browse and shop in the many boutiques, and even enjoy local entertainment.

And, of course, throughout the week, we would practice yoga with my yoga friends, some of the best people you could find anywhere.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many that played and still play a big part in life. My family has been so supportive of my career change to teach Yoga full time. My students, of course – as I would have no purpose to teach without them. Dr. Bill Blevins, my favorite professor and mentor in graduate school played a big role in my development as a therapist and which still plays a large roll in my teaching.

Jennifer Miller, my first Yoga teacher in Yoga teacher training was a big influence on my first years in the yoga industry. She is amazing.

Philip Clift is another mentor who I have been training under for the last few years and received further RYT hours is from. He exemplifies what a yoga instructor should – kind, patient, clear and wise. It has been an honor to train under him and come to know him as a friend.

Website: amyleayogaandwellness.com

Instagram: https://www.flowcode.com/page/amyleayogaandwellness

Facebook: AmyLea Yoga and Wellness

Image Credits
AC Goodman Photography https://instagram.com/acgoodmanphoto?utm_medium=copy_link

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