Wendy Mallet, above, is proud of Asheville Community Yoga's commitment to community service. Photo by Heather Berry

Published Asheville Tribune and Weaverville Tribune, February, 2016

By Heather Berry

Asheville – Life is good at the Asheville Community Yoga Center. The non-profit yoga center is consistently ranked as the top yoga studio in Asheville.

In addition, the donation-based center is expanding in late spring to fill the Woodfi n building where it’s located on Brookdale Road. The new space will include a private studio for smaller workshops, another larger studio with space for 60 and a café where students can pick up a smoothie and light snacks. The expansion also includes 40 new parking spaces.

As the center continues to grow, the focus on community service remains a vital part of its mission. We want to make yoga accessible to everyone and, by that, we don’t only mean the yoga we do on the mat,” said Wendy Mallet, a yoga instructor who has been with the center from its start in May 2010. The physical practice is great, but the community service is important too and that’s yoga as well.”

Asheville Community Yoga volunteers hand out donated scarves, mittens and hats for the homeless in downtown Asheville. Submitted photo.

Recent community service entailed collecting hats, scarves and mittens from yoga students and, then, delivering the winter attire personally to the homeless in downtown Asheville. “We gathered massive amounts of items including hundreds of mittens, scarves and hats,” said Mallett. “That’s how this community is; when we put out a call for help, they give and give and give,” she added. Christine Breininger helped distribute the winter attire and described the day as meaningful. “I am so grateful that I met these beautiful ladies from Asheville Community Yoga Center and was able to walk around downtown distributing hats, gloves, scarves and socks, along with some baked goods to some grateful brothers and sisters in need,” said Christine Breininger who volunteered to help deliver the winter goods. “We enjoyed meeting and visiting with our neighbors downtown,” she added. Each month, the yoga center has a different community service project. The center calls the service progam, “Taking Our Yoga off the Mat.”

“Sometimes we try to help by collecting things for different agencies from their wishlists and sometimes it means doing things for different organizations,” Mallett said. “Sometimes it means going out together as a community and reaching out to those people who aren’t easily reached,” she added.

From its first class, explained Mallett, the Asheville Community Yoga had a strong following. She said the success of the yoga center isn’t surprising, but a direct result of the good intentions rooted in the center’s mission by its founder Michael Greenfield. “I think it works because the model is so pure in intention,” said Mallett.

“I’ve taught other places where donation classes are offered, but the fact that all our classes our donation-based, we find we have students who are able to give a little more and offset those who can’t,” she added. “Almost immediately after opening the doors, we were filled to capacity,” said Mallet. “Michael and I often had to teach classes in the lobby.” While many yoga centers charge $12 to $15 per class, explained Mallett, the amount adds up and can prevent interested students from visiting a class more than once per week. Greenfield, however, started teaching yoga in his home and offered classes to everyone, even those who couldn’t afford to pay.

“Our mission is to allow people to practice yoga as often as they want,” said Mallet. “We have people who come here and can’t pay for whatever reason.” While some studios offer a few donation-based classes, Asheville Community Yoga offers all donation-based classes and has no plans to change this policy. When someone can’t pay, explained Mallet, they volunteer to help with different chores around the studio.

In fact, much of the décor and improvements made to the center’s interior are a result of the volunteers who offer their time, money and skillset.

As the center expands, Mallett said they continue to come up with new ideas to bring yoga to a broader group. In March, Asheville Community Yoga is taking its classes to Weaverville Elementary School in order to offer classes to teachers. Mallet said the center hopes to continue to offer more classes like these in the future, bringing yoga to those who either can’t or normally don’t make time for the practice.

Mallett also credits the Woodfin community for helping to make the center a success. “Woodfin has been so supportive,” said Mallett. “The Woodfin Police Department has helped with parking and monitoring things so our students feel very safe. Without their help, especially with the parking, this could be a nightmare.

“We love Woodfin,” Mallett continued. “We are out enough, so we aren’t in the mix of things, but we are still close enough to Asheville to be accessible.” For information about community service projects and yoga classes offered at Asheville Community Yoga, visit the website at: http://ashevillecommunityyoga.com/.