Yo' mama's so…

Mother and daughter YogaVibe is no joke
Michael Hanlon
Julie Olney and Jesse Amesmith

In the past, if anyone had ever said that I’d be at yoga four times a week, I would have said he or she was sniffing too much essential oil and incense smoke. The thought of going to a class with the impossibly fit and coiffed instructors one sees in magazines or on Instagram used to be very intimidating. But on a mission to find a studio I liked, I dabbled in the complimentary yoga sessions offered at Lululemon in Pittsford and met Jesse Amesmith. With her friendly demeanor, green streaks in red hair, and playlist peppered with David Bowie and Talking Heads, she happily guided the class into twisty positions that she modified for all levels. At the end of the session, she announced she was in a rock band called Green Dreams and was also planning a Heavy Metal Yoga workshop at Tru Yoga. Curiosity piqued, I signed up for the workshop.

Amesmith now hosts Heavy Metal Yoga every Monday evening at YogaVibe, the studio she cofounded with her mother, Julie Olney, last October. Amesmith was taking yoga classes for about eight years while living and working as a licensed massage therapist in Chicago, which provided her a strong knowledge base in anatomy and physiology. Upon her return to Rochester, she was unable to transfer her credentials, plus she desired a career change. She decided to pursue yoga teacher training through Aimée Senise Bohn and Tisah Leigh Milner Brederson at Tru Yoga.

Olney began practicing yoga in 1990 while pregnant with her second child and says, “Whether once in a while or as often as I do it now, yoga has always improved my life somehow.” Prior to her daughter’s move to Chicago, yoga became a way for them to spend quality time together during what she describes as Amesmith’s “teenage angst years.” Yoga really helped to heal their relationship. “I always wanted to start a business,” says Olney, “and seeing Jesse’s success made it more apparent we could have the best of both worlds.” With a mission to make yoga more accessible to all, they began scouting studio spaces. When they found what is now their current space, it just felt right. “The previous occupant was a former karate instructor, and the studio was a labor of love for him,” says Olney. 

Amesmith adds, “It had a big city feel with the high ceilings, light from the windows, and nice view. I knew I would enjoy practicing here.” With two yoga rooms, a welcome area, and a small office, the mother-daughter duo decided to go for it, knowing it was the right place to grow their business. 

Heavy Metal Yoga is just one class offering that sets YogaVibe apart from other studios. While vinyasa (also known as flow) classes are available, the duo wanted to provide some variety. As an inclusive and safe space, Amesmith and Olney are proud to offer pay-what-you-can Queer and Trans Yoga to members of LBGTQ communities. “Our goal is to make people more comfortable and encourage them to try yoga in a welcoming and affirming space,” says Amesmith. YogaVibe also offers Body Love Yoga, instructed by Jenna Weintraub, who is certified in Curvy Yoga. The body-positive class is low impact and can accommodate any size or ability, including beginners and those with limited mobility. 

Kid’s Vibe was recently added to the Saturday morning rotation, which is designed for both children (aged three to nine) and their parents. Amesmith provides a vinyasa class for the parents, while Olney instructs the children in the other room. “I Iove teaching kids because I get to be really creative,” she says. Olney spent years developing children’s programs and is comfortable with their short attention span. “We play games and take frequent dance breaks in between meditation and breath work.” They also role play and incorporate stuffed animals as props.

Other classes include Yoga Therapeutics, Hatha Flow, Gentle and Restorative Yoga, Restore and Flow, and Yin Yoga. Amesmith and Olney are both fans of yin classes. “They typically feature low impact poses in long holds. These poses stretch the connective tissues before muscles warm up,” Amesmith says. “It’s a little different from restorative practice, but both are great to mix in with more active classes to help balance the body.” Seasonal and quarterly schedule changes occur in order to accommodate the needs of their instructors and guests. They host a pay-what-you-can class at 11 every Sunday morning with rotating instructors. Men’s Yoga Club is also offered, as well as various workshops that allow the skills of the diverse instructors to shine, such as Brahma Viharas (a series of four Buddhist virtues), Cultivating Creativity, Yoga and Tarot, and other sessions to improve specific skills and poses.

As far as working alongside her mother, Amesmith couldn’t be happier and says, “I love getting to work with my mom. I think my grandma would have been happy to see us doing this because we’re doing something together that helps other people.”

Olney agrees. “It’s wonderful to spend time with your adult children. And our people are so wonderful, warm, and supportive that it feels like self-care to run the business.” They encourage guests of YogaVibe to come and try something new, whether it’s a new type of class or getting into yoga altogether. They also pride themselves on being gimmick-free. “We’re not trying to tell people what yoga should do for them,” says Amesmith. “So, whether you are quietly meditating on the floor or putting your foot behind your head, you don’t have to do it every day for yoga to mean something to you. Yoga can be enough if you let it.”

Stacey Rowe is a freelance writer based in Rochester.

Categories: Current Issue – Grow, Grow, Stacy Rowe