Asheville Community Yoga is a 501(c)3 nonprofit yoga center offering donation-based yoga classes, special community events, teacher trainings, student immersions, series classes and workshops in Asheville, NC. All classes, workshops and events at the center are free for people who truly 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. By offering donation-based yoga classes, we hope to make yoga accessible to everyone.
The center is funded through generous donations from students, local businesses and organizations. This center was built on the foundation of karma yoga (selfless service). All the instructors at Asheville Community Yoga practice karma yoga in generously teaching completely for free.
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, doctors, attorneys and accountants, among others, showing up and practicing next to each other.
The state-of-the-art center is equipped with everything you’ll need for your practice, from mats and blankets to heated hardwood floors and a serene atmosphere. Upon first entering the center, many people comment on its beauty and describe their time here as a “mini-retreat.”
In recent years, Asheville Community Yoga has grown from one person offering free yoga classes two nights a week, to a community of over 16,000 members with a team of close to 60 teachers, board of directors and staff members offering up to 15 classes daily, special community events, wellness workshops, monthly service projects, student immersion programs and teacher trainings.
Future plans for Asheville Community Yoga include outreach to local schools, hospitals and rehabilitation centers, low-cost childcare, healthy eating and cooking classes and support groups. The center strives to be a demonstration of what service is and encourages its members to get involved.
Yoga has the power to transform individuals, families and communities. At Asheville Community Yoga, we believe in this transformative power and strive to make the practice accessible to everyone regardless of their socio-economic status. We believe that practicing yoga regularly greatly enhances a person’s physical, mental and spiritual health. This produces a powerful ripple effect, which radiates through the surrounding family, community, and workforce in ways that positively influence everyone.
Asheville Community Yoga is operating in its sixth year as a non-profit, donation-based yoga center located in Asheville, NC. The center offers yoga classes, community events, teacher trainings, student immersions and workshops to nearly 10,000 local residents.
Asheville Community Yoga first opened under the name of “Free Yoga” in 2009. The original location was a warehouse located on Merrimon Avenue in downtown Asheville. 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. The cold concrete of the warehouse and the raw condition of the space didn’t seem to matter as these evening classes gained popularity almost overnight. Soon the “free” classes were packed with mats spanning wall to wall. In a short time, students began requesting more classes. Michael added more classes to his schedule and more people came.
As word spread around Asheville that “FREE” yoga was being offered, it became apparent that the center would need a larger, more adequate space with a community of teachers to support the demand. 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. When starting from scratch, it can take an initial investment financially to get things going. 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 started offering to teach, taking this opportunity to practice Karma Yoga. All teachers who offer their wisdom and energy to the center do so completely free of charge. Teachers teach for free and students now give what they can, when they can. This has turned out to be a beautiful equation.
In the spring of 2011, Asheville Community Yoga became a tax exempt, nonprofit organization complete with a board of directors and full time staff members.
In a very short time, Asheville Community Yoga grew from one man offering four classes a week to around 100 students, to a community of more than 9,500 members with a team of teachers, board of directors and staff offering up to 16 classes a day, special events and workshops, yoga immersion programs and teacher trainings.
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.
Asheville Community Yoga is dedicated to keeping the benefits of yoga accessible to Asheville residents, with a belief that yoga’s benefits will enhance health and wellness in individuals, families and the greater Asheville Community.
Asheville Community Yoga is a 501(c)3 organization. The center 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 80 classes a week. More than 50 teachers donate their services for free and the center employs six full-time and three part-time staff members. Asheville Community Yoga strives to be a demonstration of what service is and encourages practitioners to take their yoga off the mat by offering monthly community service projects. Future plans for Asheville Community Yoga include outreach to local schools, hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
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.