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.

Instructor of the Month: Kimberley Puryear

Taking one of Kimberley Puryear’s classes is to get an hour-long education in authenticity and self love. The moment you lay out your mat in her Tuesday evening Yin class, you are welcomed by Kimberley with a smile (usually followed by a funny one-liner). Although the class is always packed, there is a sense of individual attention paired with the comfort of being surrounded by people looking to find balance in their body and mind. The same personalized attention that goes into her class is applied to her work as the lead instructor of the 200 Hour Teacher Training program. Testimonials from 200 Hour TT grads flow in, praising her ability to connect with students and pass on her knowledge as both a yoga instructor and practitioner. With her workshops, Teacher Training expertise and popular Yin class, Kimberley is one of AYC’s most invaluable family members.

Kimberley was first drawn to yoga as her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. A friend who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis had been practicing yoga to manage her pain and recommended Kimberley join to help her cope with her mother’s illness. “She taught me basic stuff, especially breathing. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was learning breathing techniques not only for myself but also for my mother, to help her pass peacefully.” Kimberley was especially drawn to yoga’s ability to calm, soothe, strengthen and heal.

In 2007, 10 years after starting yoga, she decided to deepen her practice by attending AYC’s 200 Hour RYT Immersion and 6 months later dove into our 300 Hour RYT. During this time, she discovered her love for Yin. “It was a practice that was so powerful and grounding during a time where I really needed that.” For Kimberley, Yin allows you to sit with aspects of yourself that are uncomfortable. “Life is not comfortable for me naturally, so to have a tool to allow whatever is inside that needs space to be heard and felt and understood is powerful to me. It’s a daily practice to listen to those things and then give myself what I need to nurture myself. And then through that I can help open my heart to other people.” After graduation, she and her husband opened a yoga studio in Columbia, SC. With the success of her studio, she was approached by Stephanie Keach to become a teacher training instructor at AYC. Working with students has caused her teaching style to evolve. In her classes, workshops and TT courses, Kimberley has a fluid teaching style- constantly changing the pose, topic or curriculum to fit the needs of the group and of individuals. This attention to detail stems from her genuine interest in knowing her students. “My favorite thing about teaching is the connection with students. I learn so much more from them than they could ever learn from me. I love that the interaction with each and every single student is an opportunity to connect.”

October 16th was the last day of Kimberley’s 5-day Flow & Yin Immersion. This workshop focused on exploring Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga theory and practice, relaxation techniques, pranayama and adjustments. She has another workshop February which will focus on Restorative Yoga. The beautiful thing about Restorative Yoga is that it gives us a chance to reset and flush the system of stress. Kimberley’s workshop will fluidly discuss the negative effects of stress on our sympathetic nervous systems and address how as a yoga practitioner or instructor you can find ways to bring yourself and your students back into balance. Never one to settle for cookie-cutter yoga, Kimberley is clear that her main goal is to give students the tools to find their own paths. “I think that’s the most powerful thing that can come out of a workshop- people saying ‘I can make this my own.’”

Her exploration of balance within her own life and practice influences her teaching style, making her an incredibly relatable mentor to the hundreds of students she teaches each year. “I have been learning for 10 years and teaching for 10 years and I’m just now starting to understand what my practice is,” she says. “It is trying to be strong, fluid, radiant and peaceful. It’s trying every day to really pay attention through my practice and meditation, which of those parts is out of balance.” Her unsurprising success as a yoga instructor stems from this innate ability of hers to adapt, connect and admit that she’s just another person trying to navigate this crazy world.

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide

Michael Johnson is a compelling mix of creative yoga instructor and curious student of the mind. The root of his interest in meditation lies in its ability to help with neurological disorders and for developing wellbeing.

Michael’s worldview and meditation practiced changed when he read Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius. In this book, they explain how we can literally reshape our brain for greater happiness, love and wisdom through a combination of modern science and ancient teachings. Implementing these teachings into his own life, Michael eventually divested himself of the dogmatic & religious interpretations of meditation and instead focused on a more scientific approach.

Mettā Meditation, begins October 13. According to Michael, “Mettā means the combination of kindness, compassion, gratitude and patience-all in one. It is a meditation technique used for developing these states so they can occur with greater ease and frequency.” When you look at it from a neuroscientific perspective, cultivating these positive emotions proactively builds new connections between neurons, increases gray matter in key areas and primes our consciousness to respond with kindness for the next person you meet as well as the person you’re trying to heal a relationship with.

“Vipassanā is more like pruning, ridding ourself of weeds or bad habits that have accumulated in our mind. So the two meditation techniques go hand in hand. One is like clearing weeds and the other is for planting seeds.” he says. Find out more about how you can develop inner peace, better relationships and a positive outlook on life by registering for the Mettā workshop at youryoga.com.

Also interested in the advantages of the combination of pranayama and music during a practice, Michael and his wife, Stephanie, formed a project called Ösel to share their love of music and kirtan. Ösel provides original music with creative rhythms using a wide range of instruments, traditional Sanskrit mantra and poetry. Each album is 108, 120 or 130 beats per minute to compliment Ujjāyī breathing. Their albums are available for purchase in the Asheville Yoga Boutique. Their next Kirtan at AYC is Oct 8th from 2-4pm by donation.

Michael understands that for beginners, it can be difficult to consistently make it to yoga classes. His advice to new practitioners is “Doing anything for the first time takes a lot of courage. There are a million reasons not to, but if you can just get through the door, take the class and have the experience, you’ll find it’s totally worth the time. It also helps to come with a friend. A lot of people come to yoga class, not to prove anything, but rather to feel a sense of connection and peace of mind that’s hard to get anywhere else. That’s, I think, why people keep coming back to classes.” So if you’re feeling a bit lost in finding your stride in your practice, or even are an established yogi looking to further the depth of your practice, we here at AYC recommend you attend any of Michael’s classes and workshops. He has a massive following of dedicated students not only because of his wisdom and experience as an instructor, but also because of his raw understanding of what it means to be human with all of the complexities of attempting to successfully navigate our emotions and this world we live in. Find out more about the services he offers and his class schedules at clearlightyoga.com and youryoga.com.

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

Community Member Profile: Lorraine Lordi

When people talk about how yoga has changed their lives, I can add one more to that:  yoga saved my life.  You see, ten years ago, I was diagnosed with MS.  I went from being someone who could go like the Ever-Ready bunny to a person who could barely walk down her driveway, to the mailbox.  It was all of fifty feet away. For several years after the diagnosis, I struggled with not only loss of my physical self but loss of my happy, positive self.  The person who always saw silver linings behind clouds now not only saw dark clouds, but I also saw two of everything.  OK, so a full moon is beautiful, but when you look up at the sky and see two, you want to break down and cry.  I know because I did.

And then I moved to Asheville.  I rented a little furnished apartment on Chestnut Street, right next to this little yoga studio.  “Mom, you should try some yoga,” my son, Joe, who lives here, urged.

“Yoga?”  I said.  “Not for me.  I’m not a joiner.”

He handed me a flyer to a free weekend of classes.  “It couldn’t hurt to try one or two classes,” he said.

The next day, I got up the nerve to put on some old sweatpants and a t-shirt and go to a basic class.  I struggled to reach my toes.  Down dog?  Isn’t that for dogs?  And what’s this at the end?  Lie still and pretend you’re dead.  Well, that one I could do!

And then I kept going back.  Twice a week. Then three times.  Then as many times as I could.  I couldn’t explain why, but something there at that little studio felt like a home I never knew.  It felt like family to me.  At the same time, I slowly felt connected to the self I had lost.  The self who could only tremble at the thought of the future.  Would I go downhill like most of the doctors predicted?

Outside of yoga, I battled that fear a lot.  It’s only natural with this disease.  No one can predict its course.  But in yoga, I found a refuge, a place to center me.  I also found a place of hope.  You see, five years later after starting and staying with yoga, my neurologist shook her head and said, “I wish all of my patients were like you.  You are going back up the slope because of everything you do to take care of yourself.  I think the big part of it is yoga!”

So, that’s part of the story.  The beginning to the middle.  But let’s go to now.  Now, yoga for me is not just a way to heal, but a way to be
outrageously happy.  Yoga is fun!  So what if I can’t stand on my head?  So what if I have to go to the wall to balance?  I can touch my toes. I can do a sun salutation and really send all of my gratitude up to the universe.  I not only can do most every position (OK, take out Warrior Three), but I like doing them.

And let’s not forget this other side to yoga. Positions are fun and fine, but my breathing has deepened.  It has opened my heart and calmed down my fears.  Every breath is a gift.  And for me I can say, every step is a gift.  Not too many people think about every step they take or how their feet line up in yoga the way I do.  I’m on my feet!  To me, that is a miracle in itself.

As E.M. Forster said, “Just connect.”  And so, that’s why I do yoga:  to connect to all that is greater than I am, to connect to people in class who are no longer strangers.  To connect to the gratitude and compassion that surround and live within me.  To laugh and be glad for all that I have instead of dwelling on all that I have lost.  In fact, I can say this with great certainty:  I haven’t lost anything. With yoga and all that if offers, I’ve gained more than I could have ever imagined.  Life was good before MS.   Life is better now — with yoga.

Thank you, Asheville Yoga Center and all of your amazing teachers for bringing me back and beyond who I ever thought I could be.

– LORRAINE LORDI
(Happy, kind, and grateful)