Yoga vs. Yoga Therapy

It’s no secret that the practice of yoga is therapeutic in a myriad of ways. By flowing through asanas, practicing meditation, and utilizing breathing exercises, yoga practitioners are able to reduce their stress and anxiety, increase flexibility and blood circulation, and ease both mental and physical pain. Yoga therapy goes beyond a classroom or group experience to help heal the whole person on an individual level.

Yoga as we know it in the West, tends to be focused on the physical practice of asana in a group fitness setting and sometimes pranayama and meditation are incorporated. Students adapt their practice to fit in with the style of yoga being taught. Therapeutic yoga, on the other hand, is focused on the practitioner, and takes a multifaceted approach to yoga traditions to help improve the practitioner’s overall quality of life. For this reason, therapeutic yoga is used by both physical therapists and psychologists to heal chronic pain and emotional trauma, among many other ailments.

Instead of a traditional yoga class that teaches a single practice to a large group of people, therapeutic yoga is typically held in a private, one-on-one session to accurately assess the needs of the clients. Therapeutically-oriented yoga instructors help clients find ways to heal through yoga, offering tools and resources based on the individual’s needs.

According to the International Association of Yoga Therapists, Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga. While this includes asana practice, the practice of yoga for therapeutic benefits extends beyond focusing on the physical body to tap into all five layers of being. These layers are known as the Koshas.

Annamaya Kosha-The Physical Body

You are already familiar with Annamaya Kosha, as it is the only tactile Kosha you can actually see. The yogic practice of asanas supports the first Kosha, strengthening and healing the physical body that encompasses the remaining four Koshas. 

Pranamaya Kosha-The Energy Body

The second Kosha, Pranamaya, is the energy layer of our bodies that can be compared with human physiology. The second body encompasses our breathing, digestion, and biological processes. As its name suggests, the second body is fueled by breath practice, pranayama, as these exercises deliver oxygen-rich blood to all corners of the body.

Manamaya Kosha-The Mental-Emotional Body

The third body is responsible for our motor and sensory skills, and provides us with awareness. This body is nourished by the practice of mantra meditation, which soothes and restores our mental state — relieving anxiety and obsessions by clearing the mind.

Vijnanamaya Kosha-The Wisdom Body

The fourth body can be translated as “intellect” or “wisdom,” but it also encompasses the subtle mental processes of conscience and willpower. To strengthen this kosha, ancient yogis developed the yamas and niyamas, rules and restraints that yoga students are asked to uphold. By making a conscious effort not to lie, steal, harm, overindulge, or desire more than you actually need, you will find a sense of contentment and clarity that improves your overall quality of life.

Anandamaya Kosha-The Bliss Body

The fifth and final body is one that very few people are able to fully experience. In fact, it is thought that only saints and sages are able to experience this body in day-to-day life. By activating the bliss body, you are achieving your deepest level of being, and experiencing the purest form of peace, joy, and love.

Teaching therapeutic yoga requires specialized training to ensure that you are able to help your clients heal safely and effectively. While many programs can take years to complete, Asheville Yoga Center offers a Therapeutically Oriented 300-Hour Teacher Training that will prepare you to work one-on-one with clients in as little as nine months. If you are ready to get started on the next chapter of your yoga journey as a Therapeutically Oriented instructor, go to

10 Best Places To Do Yoga in Asheville

As you thaw out from the Western North Carolina winter and move toward spring and summer, it is the perfect time to take your yoga practice outside of your comfort zone. To help you get started and inspire your next practice, we’ve listed 10 of our favorite places to practice yoga — outside of the classroom.

NC Arboretum

The North Carolina Arboretum is 434 acres of public gardens that’s teeming with lush foliage, especially in the summertime. From 8 am to 9 pm every day, you can explore the glorious gardens of the North Carolina Arboretum, where more than 10 miles of picture-perfect hiking connect to some of Asheville’s premiere outdoor attractions including the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest.

Address: 20 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806

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Beaver Lake

Let go of your stress and take in a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air at scenic Beaver Lake, a picture-perfect escape in North Asheville. The scenic trail along the beachside offers a stunning view of both the lake and the mountains to keep your drishti as you flow through your practice.

Address: 1292 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804

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French Broad River Park

The French Broad River flows directly through the beautiful city of Asheville, and you can practice yoga alongside the gentle current at the French Broad River Park. The French Broad River Park trail is 2 miles long, and connects the French Broad Greenway with Carrier and Hominy Parks. Take a stroll along the paved sidewalk until you find a grassy spot that suits you, then park your mat and let your practice begin.

Address: 220 Amboy Rd, Asheville, NC 28806

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Botanical Gardens of Asheville

Explore 10 incredible acres of lush foliage at the Botanical Gardens of Asheville. This not-for-profit garden is nestled in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and with more than 600 species of plant and animal life, it’s one of the most biodiverse sites in North Carolina. Stroll along the well-kempt trails until you find a clearing for your practice, then enjoy the sense of peace and oneness with nature with each and every breath.

Address: 151 W.T. Weaver Blvd. Asheville NC 28804

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Southern Raft Supply – SUP

Ready to put your balance to the test? Head to Southern Raft Supply, rent a stand-up paddleboard for $12, and flow through your favorite vinyasa on the French Broad River. We don’t advise trying paddleboard yoga if you are a newbie, and we suggest practicing with a partner for safety reasons. It’s a great way to connect with nature and refresh your practice on a beautiful sunny day!

Address: 2000 Riverside Dr. #3B, Asheville, NC 28804

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One of Asheville’s Many Wonderful Yoga Studios

Over the years, Asheville has blossomed with a diverse array of yoga studios to suit yoga practitioners of all skill levels and interests. Whether you’re a resident or just visiting Asheville, be sure to stop by the following studios:

DuPont State Recreational Forest

Fancy a hike or a bike ride before your practice? Head to DuPont State Recreational Forest and hike out to one (or three) of the many stunning waterfalls in the 10,000-acre park.

Address: 1300 Staton Road, Cedar Mountain, NC 28718

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At Your Desk

Even if it’s as simple as taking a minute to stretch your neck in the middle of your workday, adding yoga to your workday can greatly improve your mood, posture, and overall health. If you can, step away from your desk for 15 minutes and flow through a sun salutation or two to reinvigorate your body and mind.

At Your Home

If you haven’t already established an at-home yoga practice, now is the time to start! By adding yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices to your daily routine — even when you can’t make it to the studio — you are setting yourself up for a positively radiant summer, rain or shine.

Yoga in the Park

Yoga in the Park with Asheville Yoga Center is back! Starting on June 2, AYC’s incredible instructors teach free outdoor yoga classes at 10 am on select Saturdays at Pack Square Park. It’s an exceptional excuse to get outside and experience for yourself why people love Asheville, and why yoga practitioners love the instructors at AYC.

5 Yin Yoga Poses to Try at Home

Learn how Yin yoga can increase your flexibility and reduce stress

Before signing up for a Yin yoga class, consider starting your practice at home with these five poses.

#1 – Meditation Seat

Sit upright with your legs either crossed in front of you, in half-lotus or in full-lotus position, keeping your back straight and your head and neck aligned with your spine. Place your hands where they feel comfortable — perhaps resting on the knees or at heart center, or perhaps you place your left hand, palm-up, in the palm of your right hand. From there, follow your breath as you relax all of your muscles. Concentrate only on keeping the spine straight, and let everything else go with each deep, cleansing breath. 

#2 – Melting Heart

Starting at the table top position, slide your hands forward and lower your forearms as you drop your chest between your shoulder blades. Your hips should stay stacked on top of the knees, and you can put your elbows on a blanket or bolster if it’s more comfortable.

#3 – Caterpillar Pose

Find a comfortable seat with your legs extended out in front of you. Walk your hands forward until you find your first edge, then round your back and drop your head to relax into the pose.

#4 – Supported Fish

Place a bolster or a block beneath your head and shoulders as you recline backward. Your chest should be open, with your arms spread on either side of you, and your shoulders should be supported. Relax your knees — either bent as in butterfly or straight out in front of you — and breathe into the posture.

#5 – Reclining Twist

Begin on your back and hug your knees to your chest, then slowly drop them to either side of your body. Spread your arms into a “T” position, and turn your head gently in the opposite direction of your knees. Hold this posture for the desired amount of time, then slowly release and move into the other side.

What is Yin Yoga?

Despite its growing popularity in North America, many people are still unfamiliar with the Yin style of yoga. This is not surprising, given that the most popular styles of yoga in the West — Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, etc. — are “Yang” in nature. As its name suggests, Yin yoga is the counterpart to these active styles of yoga, and focuses on the body’s deep connective tissues and fascia as opposed to the superficial tissues Yang yoga targets.

Yin yoga (formerly known as Daoist yoga) is a passive style of yoga, and the majority of the postures are completed in a seated or reclining position. These postures are meant to restore energy to the body, and are held anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. The results of cultivating a Yin yoga practice include being able to sit longer and more comfortably in meditation, as well as increased flexibility and reduced stress.

During a Yin yoga practice, you are encouraged to sink deep into each pose as you send your breath to all corners of your body. The deep stretches associated with Yin yoga allow you to access the connective tissues in the body through the gentle holding of the posture, which improves flexibility and creates more space within the body. As you sink into the poses, tension leaves the body with each restorative breath, quieting the mind and revitalizing the spirit. Taking the time to practice Yin yoga also allows you the opportunity to check-in with yourself mentally, improving mental clarity and reducing anxiety in the process.

Tips for Practicing Yin Yoga

As you practice Yin yoga, it is important to keep the following principles in mind:

  1. Find a comfortable, safe edge. Do not push yourself into pain or strain as you are practicing Yin yoga. Focus instead on gently sinking deeper into the posture with each breath, so that you feel a stretch — but never pain.
  2. Stay still. Once you’ve found your edge, commit to being still in the posture. This helps to prepare you for long periods of meditation by creating a space for you to focus on your breath and clear your mind.
  3. Hold the pose. As previously stated, Yin yoga involves holding the postures for an extended period of time — some yogis hold the poses for up to 20 minutes! As you explore Yin yoga in your personal practice, try to hold the pose for at least 1-2 minutes to start. The more you practice, the longer you’ll be able to relax into the position.
  4. Exit the pose slowly. When it’s time to come out of the pose, be sure to follow the same slow, gentle motions that you used getting into it. Moving out of a pose too quickly or aggressively can be dangerous, so be sure to exit with care.
  5. Use props when necessary. If at any point in your Yin yoga practice you find a need for extra support, consider adding in props such as bolsters, blocks, eye pillows or even a weighted blanket to help you sink deeper in the position. If you do not already have these props at home, you can find them at the Boutique at Asheville Yoga Center.

If you are interested in learning more about Yin yoga, consider reading the Complete Guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark or Yin Yoga Principles & Practice by Paul Grilley.

Once you’ve explored the benefits of Yin yoga on your own, you may consider expanding your practice through a Yin yoga class. Asheville Yoga Center offers a variety of Yin classes as well as combined Flow & Yin to provide a well-rounded yoga practice for our community. Many of our world-renowned instructors specialize in this restorative style of yoga, and can help you to deepen your practice and reap the full benefits of Yin Yoga.

Asheville Yoga Center Fundraises to Support Our VOICE

Yoga studio dedicates classes, workshop & 10% of proceeds on April 26 to fight sexual violence

To raise awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and join the fight against sexual violence in our community, Asheville Yoga Center has selected Our VOICE as its Charity of the Month for April 2018.

All month long, AYC will have donation boxes stationed at the and Boutique for guests to directly contribute funds, and on Thursday, April 26, 10% of all drop-in and community class sales will be donated to the local nonprofit. On April 30, AYC will host a donation-based Trauma-Sensitive Restorative Yoga Workshop led by instructor Becca Odom, LCSW, E-RYT 200. The suggested donation to the workshop is $20, and all funds raised will be directly donated to Our VOICE in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Along with class donations, AYC will contribute $250 to inspire young women and encourage lifelong health.

“Asheville Yoga Center recognizes the importance of victims’ services for survivors of sexual harassment, and we are thrilled by the opportunity to lend our support any way we can,” says Melissa Pennscott, General Manager of AYC. “We are grateful for organizations like Our VOICE that fight on the frontlines against sexual violence in our community and around the world.”

Established in 1974, Our VOICE has become a leader in the prevention & intervention of sexual violence in Buncombe County. The non-profit provides counseling, advocacy, and education to serve all victims of sexual violence regardless of race, religions, sexual orientation, gender identity, status of citizenship, or income level.

“Survivors across the country are speaking up and breaking the silence around assault and harassment,” says Angelica Wind, Executive Director of Our VOICE. “From media headlines to the #MeToo movement, we are witnessing the pervasiveness of sexual violence in our society, while also holding space for survivors in our community. Now, more than ever, we need to stand in support of all people whose lives have been impacted by sexual violence. We are grateful for businesses like Asheville Yoga Center for standing by survivors and supporting them on the path to healing. Every donation makes a difference in the fight to end sexual violence in our community.”

Save the date: March 14, 2019 Our VOICE will be hosting its first Breaking the Silence speaker series. Among the featured speakers will be Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement.

Our VOICE sponsors a number of projects in the community. Wishlists can be found below for those who are interested in making direct contributions to the nonprofit and can be dropped off at 35 Woodfin Street, 28801.

Items for the Working to End Human Trafficking Project: 
  • Backpacks
  • Individually wrapped healthy snacks
  • Access to food: Gift cards to Ingles/Harris Teeter/Trader Joe’s/To downtown fast-food restaurants
  • Clean, new sweat pants
  • New sports bras
  • Blankets
  • Deodorant
For art therapy classes for survivors:
  • Paper clips
  • Colored pens
  • Markers
  • Art paper/Card Stock Paper
  • Photography magazines (ie National Geographic, for collage classes)
For survivors seeking services at the Buncombe County Family Justice Center:
  • Sanitary pads
  • Bottled Water
  • Herbal Tea/Black Tea
  • Coffee
  • Individually wrapped snacks
  • Tissue

For more information, or for information on Our VOICE’s supportive services, see

About Asheville Yoga Center:

Asheville Yoga Center (AYC) is a leader in providing world-class instruction and support for personal growth through yoga. Founded in 1997, AYC offers classes, teacher training, and a retail boutique for yoga practitioners of all levels. Learn more at 

About Our VOICE:

Our VOICE, Inc. is a non-profit crisis intervention and prevention agency which serves victims of sexual violence, age 13 through adult, in Buncombe County. Founded in 1974 in the pursuit of a community that is free of sexual violence, Our VOICE serves all individuals in Buncombe County affected by sexual assault and abuse, through counseling, advocacy and education.