Asheville Community Yoga is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit center for individual and community transformation offering donation-based yoga, Qigong, mindfulness based programs, meditation, workshops, introductory immersions, teacher trainings, continuing education, yoga in Spanish, yoga for seniors and kids in Asheville, NC. We inspire and empower citizens to live healthier, active, and well-informed lives that contribute to an inclusive and compassionate society. All classes, workshops and events at the center are free for people who cannot afford to pay. For people who are able to pay, the suggested “Love Offering” amount is $5 to $15 for regular classes and $15+ for special events and workshops.
The center is funded through generous donations from students, local businesses and organizations. Asheville Community Yoga was built on the foundation of Karma Yoga (selfless service), and all the teachers practice karma yoga by offering their time and talents completely for free. It has become a home for some of the finest teachers in the area and an educational center for recently graduated yogis and yoginis. Teachers would say that the benefits of the community are as much for the them as the people they serve.
Asheville Community Yoga has become a melting pot where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures and ages come together to practice. We see students, seniors, servers, bartenders, public servants, doctors, attorneys and accountants,—among others,—showing up and practicing next to each other. Asheville Community Yoga is not simply a yoga center, but a comprehensive and tightly wedded community with a purpose. The state-of-the-art center is equipped with everything needed for practice – mats, blocks, bolsters, straps. Upon first entering the center, many people comment on its beauty and describe their time here as a “haven” and “mini-retreat.”
In only seven years, Asheville Community Yoga has grown from just one person offering free yoga classes two nights a week, to a community of more than 16,000 members with a team of over 65 teachers, a board of directors, and thirteen staff members, offering up to 23 classes daily. In 2015, fundraising for an expansion commenced, and students and donors contributed $235,000 and 1600 hours in labor and expertise toward a 3600 square-foot expansion. A third studio, two rooms for healing arts and small classes, as well as a 125 space parking lot, garden, and 7 additional bathrooms opened in 2017. A healthy foods café will be completed in early 2018.
Future plans for Asheville Community Yoga include outreach to local schools, hospitals and rehabilitation centers, yoga for veterans, low-cost childcare, healthy eating and cooking classes, and support groups. With the eventual incorporation of adjacent land and properties, Asheville Community Yoga will become a genuine campus including an institute for the healing arts. The center strives to be a demonstration of what service is and encourages its members to get involved in any way they can.
At Asheville Community Yoga, we believe that participating in community and being of service enhance every person’s physical, mental and spiritual health, and radiate a positive influence through surrounding families, communities, and workforce. Our aim is to ensure that the resources of Asheville Community Yoga remain accessible to everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status. Built on a sound financial footing, Asheville Community Yoga promises to remain a beacon for generations to come.
Asheville Community Yoga is operating in its seventh year as a nonprofit, donation-based yoga and healing arts center located in Asheville, NC. Its growing campus is host to yoga classes and trainings (for adults, children, seniors, and Spanish-speakers), yoga teacher and continuing education certification programs, mindfulness-based workshops and events, nutrition education, and affordable clothing—all enjoyed by over 16,000 participants.
Asheville Community Yoga first opened under the name of “Free Yoga” in 2009. Michael Greenfield, Asheville Community Yoga’s executive director, was the only teacher at that time. He offered free early morning men’s yoga classes and general public classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings in a warehouse located on Merrimon Avenue in downtown Asheville. The cold concrete of the warehouse and the raw condition of the space didn’t seem to matter as these free evening classes were soon packed with mats spanning wall to wall. Students requested more classes, Michael expanded the schedule, and more people came.
It soon became apparent that a larger, better-equipped space with a community of teachers to support the demand was needed. The center moved to its current location at 8 Brookdale Road in North Asheville in the spring of 2010, when it assumed the name of Asheville Community Yoga Center. Michael called on a few close friends and family to help out financially and took out loans to renovate and create a beautiful new state-of-the-art center that many today consider a second home. The center took $30,000 in loans and was able to pay those back within three-and-a-half years.
As soon as the space was complete, local teachers began offering their wisdom and energy in the spirit of Karma Yoga, teaching entirely free of charge. Teachers teach for free and students now give what they can, when they can. This model has turned out to be not only a beautiful example of cooperation and love, but also a financially viable enterprise.
On August 9th, 2011 Asheville Community Yoga became a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization complete with a board of directors and full-time staff members. In 2012 a second studio and an additional bathroom were added, nearly doubling the center’s capacity from 1800 square feet to 3600 square feet. In spring of 2016 Asheville Community Yoga opened Zen & Now Preloved Clothing, a resale and thrift shop, across the street from the center. The shop takes donations of gently used men’s and women’s clothes, shoes and accessories. All proceeds of the shop benefit Asheville Community Yoga’s nonprofit.
By the end of 2016 Asheville Community Yoga had raised enough funding to secure a loan from Wells Fargo and moved forward with purchasing the entire building at 8 Brookdale Road and the land surrounding the building for parking, growing from 3600 square feet to 7200 square feet. Throughout 2017, a tremendous amount of time and energy went into renovating the building to create a third studio space, seven additional bathrooms, a healing arts space with two rooms, and officially moving Zen & Now into our building, letting go of rent and expenses paid across the street in its previous location.
In a very short time, Asheville Community Yoga grew from one man offering four classes a week to approximately 100 students, to a team of 65 teachers, a board of directors, eight full-time and five part-time staff, offering up to 23 classes a day, special events and workshops, yoga immersion programs and teacher trainings, all to a community of more than 16,000 members.
As a 501(c)3 organization, Asheville Community Yoga is funded through daily donations from students, larger contributions from local businesses, and grants. The center is open 364 days of the year with more than 120 classes a week. Asheville Community Yoga is dedicated to keeping yoga and the somatic arts accessible to Asheville residents, believing that their benefits will enhance health and wellness in individuals, families and the greater Asheville Community. Once this comprehensive model is firmly established in Asheville, we intend to open new campuses around the globe.
The center strives to be a demonstration of what service is, and encourages practitioners to take their yoga and somatic practices off the mat by offering monthly community service projects. In the near future, the center will add outreach programs for local schools, hospitals and rehabilitation centers, yoga for veterans, prenatal and postpartum programs, child care, and more broadly a residential institute for the healing arts.
We would not be here without volunteers to support us and a willingness by teachers and staff to offer some work for free. We are not in this for the money. This system will only work if teachers feel the value in teaching for free and are willing to do so as a commitment, not just showing up when they feel like it, but truly see it as a priority and make other life plans and appointments around their classes. We are blessed in Asheville to have so many teachers who feel this calling.
The way to become a nonprofit is laid out pretty clearly on government websites. It was valuable for us to have a lawyer available to help sift through the legal jargon and make sure we had all of our bases covered as far as a board of directors and the legal solicitation of funds. We were lucky enough to find a lawyer among our students who helped us out pro-bono. Again, volunteers help!
In addition to the core group of teachers and other volunteers, we have found it is absolutely essential to have a flexible and eager staff who are committed to service above a salary. We could not have reached the point we are at today without a staff that was willing to work with no regard or need for the money in the early days in particular.
The executive director, Michael Greenfield, had a full-time job in addition to his commitments at the center, and despite working over 60 hours a week to support Asheville Community Yoga, did not receive a salary for the first two years. The associate director, Amber Acheson, worked close to 65 hours a week for the first two years while receiving a salary of $2,000 a month or $24,000 a year.
Starting a nonprofit of this nature is a 24/7 commitment and requires a staff that is willing to frequently put it as the priority above all else. It can’t be thought of as work or something you do for the money, as those involved are often called to put in long hours, all hours of the day, without any regard for financial gain.
Additionally, getting the center off the ground required a focus on consistency and reliability. Knowing that the center was started to create a place where people could cultivate and reap the benefits of a daily yoga practice, we are open from early in the morning straight through until late in the evening every day of the year (including every major holiday except for Christmas) to accommodate as many people as possible.
As we have mentioned several times, it is not about the money, but by our staff showing up consistently on a reliable schedule, we have been able to create a consistent and reliable flow of donations which are needed to keep our doors open. While this may seem like an obvious strategy for a business, it is often underestimated within some nonprofits and certainly at many yoga studios where little thought is given to canceling a class or locking the doors whenever a teacher can’t make it.
It truly took a village of committed volunteers and visionaries to create this center, and we are grateful for the community that has come together as a result. Thanks for your interest in Asheville Community Yoga!
If you are inspired by our nonprofit’s mission and believe in the work we are doing, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our 501(c)(3) center at the link below.