Asheville Community Yoga is operating in its ninth year as a nonprofit, donation-based yoga and healing arts center located in Asheville, NC. Its growing campus is host to accessible and inclusive yoga classes and trainings, yoga teacher and continuing education certification programs, mindfulness-based workshops and events, nutrition education, healthy plant-powered whole foods and affordable clothing—all enjoyed by over 20,000 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, and created the name of Asheville Community Yoga Center, to reflect that the space was inclusive of everyone and truly a “community” of people gathering to practice. 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 completed, 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, as well as offering products from local artisans. 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 the expenses and monthly rent paid across the street in its previous location. In 2018, we opened our Healing Arts Center and Karma Café. In 2019, we became a fully solar powered campus. 2020 will be our 10 year anniversary and we could not be more excited about celebrating a decade of this incredible community and what it has become.
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. We currently offer specialized classes such as: Yoga for Cancer Recovery, Kids Yoga, Trauma-Informed Gentle Yoga, Yoga for Seniors, Anxiety Releasing Yoga, Yoga en Español, Prenatal Yoga, Qi Gong for Healing, and Yoga for Veterans. We hope to one day also add outreach programs for local schools, hospitals and rehabilitation centers, offer a traveling yoga experience to reach underserved communities and eventually offer a residential institute for the healing arts.