In 2007, Amy Teter looked at her life, and she knew she wanted a change.
She was working as a forensic economist, and while there were parts of her job she loved — namely teaching and helping people — she could feel herself sinking deeper into a hole she wasn’t sure she’d be able to climb out of.
“The more and more I was sitting there behind that desk every day, the more depressed I felt,” Teter said. “I wasn’t 100-percent passionate about my job and what I was doing, but I held the same fears I think everyone else does about changing something so big.”
Six years earlier, Teter’s sister died suddenly, and Teter found herself re-evaluating everything around her.
“It really broke me open. I started wanting more out of life, and I realized how short and precious our time here is,” Teter said. “I knew I wanted something different, even though I sat at a desk for six more years.”
A month after her sister’s death, a friend brought Teter to her first pilates class. And while it may not have been apparent at the time, it instilled in her a new passion that would change her life.
Teter has been the owner and operator of Centered Pilates, now celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The Charleston-based pilates studio offers myriad workout classes for small groups and individual sessions, and it just opened its second location in Kanawha City.
In 2006, when she accepted how unhappy and dissatisfied she was with her job and in life, Teter took a step back and started thinking about what she could do to change. She realized she wanted to open a pilates studio to combine her love of teaching with her passion for the workout.
“You know how people complain about their work and say they’re going to do something big and different but never really do? I think people — my friends and family — thought I was just talking; they didn’t realize I was serious,” Teter said.
She said she didn’t have any fear of failure — if that’s the worst that could happen, she could handle it. She was afraid of what her family would think, especially her uncle, whom she was working for at the time.
“I remember thinking after I started going to therapy: ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’” Teter said. “The worst was that my uncle could stop talking to me, cut me out, stop inviting me to family functions. ... At that point in time, though, what I was feeling outweighed the fear I had about all that.”
When Teter confronted that fear and decided to move forward with her plans, her uncle was supportive and understanding.
In August 2007, Teter opened her first studio out of her home, starting a new career in the middle of her life — something not many people have the opportunity to do.
“We all have dreams, but they’re unspoken a lot of the time. They are there, though, with that voice that I think we tend to push down and ignore as we get older and convince ourselves we’re content,” Teter said. “You have to listen to that voice.”
Teter acknowledged, though, a jump like this isn’t easy, and it’s not always feasible.
“It’s not just a matter of just jumping,” she said. “You have to take steps, make plans.”
For Teter, her plans included making sure her finances were in order and figuring out if — even with her passion — she was sure teaching pilates is what she wanted to do.
Before opening Centered, she took a vacation to San Diego, where she took a pilates class. She spoke to the instructor after the session, and he advised, if she was serious, she should start offering free classes to friends, family, anyone, and see how she liked it.
Centered opened a few months after she followed this advice, and within her first year, Teter had more than 80 clients on her schedule as she taught out of her home.
Knowing she needed a bigger space, she rented a studio on West Washington Street, where her business remained for three years.
Her clientele kept increasing, and when she outgrew that studio, she moved to Hale Street, where she spent the hardest three years of her journey.
“There were so many issues with that place — plumbing, infrastructure — it probably could have put us under,” said Teter, who at that point had several other instructors working with her at Centered. “I felt passionate about what I was doing, though, so I fought through all that and survived.”
When her lease ended, she and her workers knew they needed to move. So when she found a space on Capitol Street — the current location of her studio — it was as if everything had “perfectly aligned,” she said.
“This is by far the best space we’ve had, truly,” Teter said.
With floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to Capitol Street, natural light dominates the space. There are couches at the entrance and a mini-fridge stocked with cold water. Purple accents can be found throughout the entire studio, even most of the workout equipment like the mats and weights. Purple was her sister’s favorite color.
“It’s important that this place feels homey. It shouldn’t have the cold, clinical feel of a gym,” she said. “I feel like home here, and I want everyone else who joins me to feel that, too.”
Centered got its name from the idea of balancing mind, body and spirit, Teter said. When clients come for a session, they shouldn’t just be getting a physical workout. They should be working to center themselves and lighten the load holding them down in life.
Sometimes, Teter said, that means things can get a little personal.
“If they’re weighed down and they just need to express something, it’s like Vegas — what happens at Centered, stays at Centered,” Teter said. “Sometimes you just need to let things go and let them out. I think people sometimes just need someone to listen to them, and I’m here for that.”
Quite a few sessions — single and group — have started with sighs and tears, Teter said, but she believes that’s all necessary to get the most out of a workout.
“One aspect of you — your mind, body or spirit — cannot connect with the others if there is a mental block, so we have to work past that,” Teter said.
Teter recalled all the firsts she experienced after her sister’s passing — the first birthday, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas — and how grief gave her such a mental block she couldn’t think of moving on.
Today, as she works in her studio with a purple painting hanging on the wall called “Her Sister’s Branches,” Teter said she knows how hard it can be to push through that kind of grief. But she said she believes, through pilates and her other classes, she can help others work toward being as happy as she has found herself.
“I’ve chosen to live my best, fullest life, and I want to help other people do that as well,” Teter said. “Pilates made me a happier, healthier person, and my mission over time has evolved into creating a happier, healthier Charleston, if I can.”