Written by Emily Glaser | Photos by Anthony Harden
The rewards of Hatha yoga are bounteous and extend beyond the body, and for Stephanie and Sunny Keach, that includes their internationally acclaimed business, the Asheville Yoga Center.
There’s long been healing in these hills.
Before history’s mark carved the long scars of winding roads into our peaks, they were a place of respite. Bubbling hot springs, tucked into a northern valley and cradled in set boundaries of neutral territory, offered a soulful, healthful retreat for Native Americans, regardless of tribe or allegiance, for centuries before the rough footfall of Europeans touched these lands.
In the 1700s straggling bands of Cherokees, hearts still tied to their home, would dig their fingers into the soils and roots of the mountains to pull forth gnarled ginseng. They’d long used the root to break fevers and stanch wounds, but now, traders paid them pennies for the “white medicine,” which they shipped across seas to boost Asian immune systems (among other things).
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Western North Carolina offered cool airs and warm waters to the aging, ailing, and merely disinterested elite in droves, complaining of headaches and hacking coughs and, in the case of one Mr. Edwin Wiley Grove (yes, that Grove), the hiccups. The cures they found in our mountains were so miraculous that many of them decided to make their homes here, founding landmarks like the Grove Park Inn, the Biltmore Estate, and Lake Lure that still define our landscape today.
It was also here that flocks of tubercular patients fled; prescribed clean air and cool nights by masked physicians, they were found, in these mountains. The dry air of towns like Asheville soothed welted chests, and the cities expanded like the wounded lungs they housed as thousands of invalids flooded local sanitariums.
As the 20th century progressed, and medical treatments like antibiotics with it, the healthful allure of the region shifted. At Highland Hospital, manned by psychiatrist Dr. Robert S. Carroll, unstable burghers like Zelda Fitzgerald (whose husband F. Scott first visited Asheville in the hopes of alleviating a purported spot on his lung in 1935) sought reprieve and restoration in early psychiatry. It was a healing of mind and spirit, as well as body, that visitors began to seek.
Even in the 21st century, we maintain a reputation for healthfulness and remedies, the hills dotted with bastions of healing arts like Asian massage retreats and herbalism schools. Dark jars of essential oils and homeopathic tinctures line the shelves of our groceries and the peaked tents of health fairs in our parks. And on streets across these mountains, nearly as common as the signs that name those lanes, you’ll find yoga studios. Decked in bricks and clapboard and mandala murals, they beckon to the afflicted with promises of health and healing, both physical and spiritual.
It’s a trend that’s proved decidedly untrendy, vested with a staying power that will perhaps outlast all those other remedies coming before it. When the region’s first yoga studios opened in the ‘90s it was, even the proprietors will admit, in an effort to capitalize on what they assumed was a fleeting fad before it faded. And now, 20 years later, local yoga studios are more plentiful than ever, and classes are still so full they’re advertised as “warm” and heated by bodies alone.
It’s a narrative to which Stephanie and Sunny Keach can attest. “A bunch of people left aerobics for yoga because it felt better,” Sunny explains, his long limbs spread across the bench of the picnic table at which he sits. His gaze drifts lazily over the ever-growing complex of his creation: Asheville Yoga Center. “So we were always assuming something else was going to come along, and there’s going to be a max exodus, so we better make hay while the sun shines.” He smiles, aware of his own blunder. “So that was, at least in the old days, the psychology that drove us to keep expanding or offering more to meet the demand: to not let there be unmet demand.”
That expansion, and the demand it answered, resulted in Asheville Yoga Center, or AYC. It’s a center and studio currently offering 100 classes a week and 15 yoga trainings annually, and a name that’s recognized by yogis the world over. “We are aware that we’re a hub—we call it ‘the mothership,’” Sunny says, tracing a dialogue map of the Center’s previous students’ whereabouts: Japan, Russia, Italy. “All over the world, from little old Asheville.”
But even today, with a series of buildings connected by winding, brick, and plant-draped paths, and covering more than half of a large city block, located just north of I-240 between Merrimon Avenue and Charlotte Street, and even with a reputation that triggers nods around the world, there is still unmet demand to be fulfilled. That demand attests not just to the endurance of yoga, but to the studio’s proprietors and the impact they’ve had on Asheville’s 21st century, yet ancient, healing art: yoga.
If You Hatha Will, You Hatha Way
Before Asheville’s hospitals and retreats, before the trade of North American ginseng, and perhaps even before those hot springs were huddled in, there was yoga.
It’s a short word with a long history—more than 5,000 years, to be exact—and weighed with the heft of mind, body, and soul. The word itself gains derivation from the Sanskrit “yuj,” which means “to bind, unite, or integrate.” Unity of body, mind, and breath—through breathing exercises, poses (or “asanas”), and meditation—is, at its core, the true intention of the practice.
The mainstream vision of yoga, the one that’s spawned YouTube channels and billion-dollar clothing companies and studios like AYC, is actually Hatha yoga. Roughly translated, the Sanskrit word means “willful” or “forceful,” which at first may seem at odds with “yuj,” but that willfulness is a result of the Hatha yoga’s prioritization of the “asanas,” often in tandem with intentional breathing (or pranayama).
“For 99 percent of people, what yoga is, it’s the asana, getting the body involved,” explains Sunny. “It’s proven to be the perfect combination of taking care of my body, getting a workout of some sorts, while taking care of my psyche, of my mind, of my soul.”
Though Hatha yoga is based in physical movement, its rewards are bounteous and extend beyond the body. “In these classes, you are getting a lot of positive reinforcement messaging. You’re getting the time and the opportunity to unplug from your normal life and get back to square one. You’re getting the time and connection, the magical parts,” says Sunny, pressing a finger onto the table with each point. “They all fit together and, for a lot of people, by the end of class, it’s like a renewal.”
Though popularized and, according to some yogis, bastardized by drive-thru yoga franchises that promise tight cores and bums, folks like Stephanie and Sunny hope that such fixations on the physical effects of yoga eventually bring more mental awareness to the practitioners. In other words, even if you get into yoga for the physical benefits, you’re likely to find much more along the path to developing a practice.
“Yoga is becoming aware that our thought processes create tangles and knots. Yoga also gives us the tools to help unravel those knots. At first it’s our body, but with a skilled guide, we quickly realize it’s all in the mind,” Stephanie says. “But luckily, we can change our thoughts and untangle the jumbles. Once untangled, new, better thoughts can come in via creative ideas or gentle compassion or pure joy.”
Finding a Place to (Nama)Stay
Many yogis are initially attracted to yoga as a form of physical therapy; such was the case for Stephanie Keach. After a back break at 18 years old, she used Light on Yoga, a popular text, to learn yoga and help herself heal. A year later she was sharing her newfound passion and teaching yoga to other young adults in her hometown of Santa Barbara, an area that was already a hotbed for now-famous early American practitioners.
Stephanie was still teaching yoga when she met the young, itinerant Sunny in 1994. The similarities between the two were almost immediately apparent—although, Sunny admits he was initially dismissed by Stephanie as a “long-haired hippie.” Both were “voluntarily mobile,” living out of vans on the palm tree-studded streets of idyllic Santa Barbara, and both were pursuing an alternative lifestyle that prioritized a sense of awareness.
“I had been very interested in meditation, personal growth, inner-world stuff, even in high school, which was very rare where I grew up in Maryland,” Sunny remembers, adding that ‘80s New England was an egoistic culture to which he just didn’t relate. California—and the friends he found there, like Stephanie, who’d grown up in Carmel Valley, next to San Diego—offered the kind of “right-on” respite for which his heart yearned.
Though initially introduced by friends, it wasn’t until the two reconnected through massage school that romance (and common career objectives) were kindled. “We broke the rules—you weren’t supposed to get romantically involved with your fellow classmates, so we had to go to the teacher and the whole group and confess,” Sunny remembers, flashing his signature, toothy smile. “I think there was an element of that that made it more real.” Their commitment sealed by classroom confession, the two began dreaming up futures for themselves.
Stephanie had already shared her passion for yoga with Sunny (“It was actually kind of a novelty,” he says), and they were both finding a new kind of fulfillment through massage school. So, they postulated, why not pursue both yoga and massage, united by the common thread of teaching? As she recalls now, “One day we were riffing, ‘How awesome would it be’—I don’t know why we had to do both—‘to open a massage school and a yoga center?!’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’ll do!’ And sure enough, when we got here, that’s what we did.”
Inspired, the duo left Santa Barbara in 1995, their van creaking under the weight of their belongings and bodies (as well as the growing weight of their first child), in search of a new home: somewhere mountainous and cool, with dry, hot summers; somewhere with green living and environmentally sound ideals; somewhere they could establish two new businesses—a yoga studio and massage school—that necessitated a community of prosperous health. Somewhere like Asheville.
Bending Over Backwards
As is so common in these Asheville transplant narratives, it wasn’t necessarily the Keaches who chose Asheville, but Asheville that chose them. The wheels of their Westie trekked over desert and mountain, the mileage growing at a steady tick that echoed the pending arrival of their first son. Finally, 10,000 miles later, they stumbled upon a Black Mountain community called Earth Haven that encompassed the conscientious ethos—like living light on the earth, communal cooperation and neighborliness, and green living—for which they’d been searching. And, coincidentally, that also happened to abut the beatnik hub of Asheville.
At the time, Asheville was home to the popular Lighten Up Yoga studio, but it didn’t offer the kind of yoga preferred by Stephanie and Sunny. “Here on the East Coast, the style of yoga was Iyengar, so it was very static, very rigid, very authoritarian,” Sunny explains. On the West Coast, where Stephanie had developed her practice, “it was more meditation in yoga, more power, more of the workout, more lovey-dovey with a softer edge to it. Once we brought it here, it was certainly obvious they were ready for it.”
The first iteration of Asheville Yoga Center opened its doors in 1997, tucked in the back room of North Asheville’s Training Partners gym. They offered ten or so classes a week, mostly taught by Stephanie. Though they simultaneously opened a massage school, that venture soon fell by the wayside—it was in yoga that the two found success. By 1999 they were ready to expand to a full studio space.
In 2000 they moved to a bricked corner building at 239 South Liberty Street, just north of where their current complex stands today. “We threw everything we had [at it,]” Sunny says emphatically. “Way back then, life was so different for us. We were very undercapitalized, pretty much every step of the way, but then, totally. We threw all the money we had, all the money we could borrow, all the money we could pull off credit cards, to make this little studio happen.” From a business perspective, the move was the kind of all-in gamble that haunts the dreams of investors—but yoga isn’t your typical business. It was a risky move that proved to be the right one. “People showed up, and we got validated,” he explains, succinctly.
That early success was measured in signatures. Students would sign in on paper sheets marked with 24 long lines; in the early days, if ten of those lines held the names of students, they considered the class a success. Eventually, more lines began to carry the pen strokes of names, and the sheet would have to be flipped to reveal its blank side. “We were consistently having to flip it over, use a second sheet, and that was a big deal back then for us,” Sunny remembers. They began to offer more classes to accommodate the growing interest, bringing in more teachers who could fill the 1,000 square foot studio.
Over the next ten years, Asheville Yoga Center expanded its offerings to include dozens of classes and, most important, trainings. “That’s how you can survive as a yoga studio,” Sunny says of their expanding yoga teacher training programs. “There’s not a lot of money in teaching yoga classes—most of it goes right to the yoga teacher. Most of the money that comes in just goes right back out to the folks who work for us. So as the trainings grew, we were renting other spaces, so by the time we were done there [at 239 South Liberty], maybe there were 25 to 30 classes a week, and maybe half a dozen teacher trainings a year, maybe more.” The Center was hosting teaching trainings in cities across the Southeast, and their reputation was growing, prompting more visits to the Asheville studio.
As Sunny notes, by the end of the decade their growth far exceeded the single studio and its basement, forcing them to rent spaces sporadically across town to accommodate teacher trainings and special programs. When Sunny, perched atop his bike on his commute home, passed an empty grass lot at the end of the block, inspiration struck. Fittingly enough, on January 1, 2012, they opened their new, custom studio space at 211 South Liberty. The new space housed two yoga rooms so that, when paired with their old space at 239 South Liberty, the Center could host multiple classes simultaneously.
Even then, Asheville Yoga Center’s growth was far from over, abetted by the sudden, inestimable growth of Asheville itself. As new Ashevillians flooded the city—many of them already diehard yogis—the Center found itself ill-prepared for the additional influx of students. “It was all maxed out. We were still having to rent an additional space, we still had to rent offices across the street, we had to rent parking,” Sunny says. “That’s some of the things that have always driven the growth—the need.”
In response to that need, they grew again, this time remodeling an existing building behind the 211 building. The latest addition, which opened in November of 2015 to bring the size of the AYC campus to three-quarters of an acre, houses the yoga training center (with two yoga rooms) and a boutique at 62 Orange Street. The location, previously home to FemCare, was purchased and renovated to host the Center’s 200- and 300-hour yoga trainings, as well as its operations offices and boutique, with racks of stretchy, patterned pants and tanks emblazoned with encouraging mantras, as well as a “local” section with eye pillows, jewelry, and bags. Following the opening of this latest location, the Center moved wholly into the two new buildings, clearing their old space at the 239 address for a cycling studio.
It wasn’t just the inflation of its physical space that marked the growth of Asheville Yoga Center, but the expanding number of employees and teachers. When they opened the studio at 211 South Liberty in 2012, it marked a shift in the scale of the Center and, thus, the responsibilities of its employees. “Up to that point, Steph and I ran everything,” Sunny points out. “There were teachers—there were always teachers—but there were essentially no staff, just kind of some helpers. And then it blew up, and we were like, ‘Holy crap, we can’t do it all anymore.’ And actually, we are still adjusting to that reality.”
It’s a notable permutation of which many small business owners are hyper-aware. When a business begins, the majority of its responsibilities fall squarely on the shoulders of its founders. Habits form, routines arise, and ways of doing things are held fast; surrendering those duties and obligations, even to well-qualified and freshly-hired recruits, can be a hard task indeed. “We’re still adjusting to having employees, having other people do the things that you did, adjusting to letting go, adjusting to entrusting, adjusting to being ok when things aren’t done how you would have done them,” Sunny points out. “For both of us, that is a continual struggle.”
It’s an adjustment made all the more difficult because it was simply unexpected. When Sunny and Stephanie opened their yoga studio twenty years ago, it was—in Sunny’s own words—as a way of capitalizing on what they expected to be a fad. But two decades and several moves later, it’s proved to be much more. “Back in the early days, you figure out the systems and do all the work yourself,” he says. “What I never saw in expanding was all the people, the staff, and the management of that; it just changes things. That’s been the biggest shift that we’re still very much in.”
Sunny returns again and again to the word “plateau” when describing the Center’s current business model. It’s a word that was once alien to the self-described visionary’s vocabulary. “I’ve always been the dreamer, the visionary, the ‘what’s next,’ the pusher for growth or expansion,” he says. But now, following a full-force ride that’s propelled them through two decades of business and multiple expansions (not to mention raising three sons), he’s tired, and he’s ready to focus on refining what he’s already built, rather than building more.
As it Stands, In Mountain Pose
In a region long defined by its healing arts, Asheville Yoga Center is now the undisputed mecca of Western North Carolina yoga. It’s the longest established studio in the region, and the largest. The studio hosts classes from 7AM to 8PM, seven days a week, totaling over 100 classes every week. More than 50 instructors, including Stephanie herself, teach at the Center, and many of them are world-renowned and award-winning. In addition to all those classes, AYC offers 15 yoga trainings and 50 to 60 advanced trainings annually (“Basically every weekend, plus some big long 10 weekend ones,” Sunny notes), plus, according to Sunny’s estimates, almost 100 events every year, including small workshops and events, like the Asheville Yoga Festival.
As Sunny mentioned earlier, it’s not the classes that create monetary success for the Center, but the trainings. The teacher trainings offered by the Asheville Yoga Center come in two varieties: 200-hour and 300-hour. Marketing Coordinator Erin Gregory compares the two trainings to a Bachelor’s and a Master’s; combining the two results in a 500-hour certification, or “degree.”
The 200-hour training is typically completed via a three-week immersion, during which students spend the majority of their days for three weeks (8AM to 5PM, Sunday through Thursday) in the Center’s training studios. Students can also choose a nine-week weekends-only program. In both iterations, students learn the basics of teaching yoga.
The 300-hour certification, on the other hand, takes far longer to complete—on average, two to three years. Unlike the immersion, the “Master’s” certification is completed through a series of specialized “modules.” If you’d like to teach yoga to children or seniors, for example, you’d take a coordinating module; there are modules geared toward certain careers (like physical therapy) and specific branches of yoga (like Kundalini). Combining a series of these modules over the course of several years earns the yogi that holy grail, a 500-Hour Certification.
Students attending the immersion training or weekend workshops often make the trek to Asheville from out of town, and a lucky few get to stay at AYC’s own Namastay House. The butter-yellow house includes a seasonal garden, kitchen, bathrooms, and both single and double rooms for attendees within walking distance of the Center.
The trainings and the hundreds of classes are hosted in the two newer facilities: the studio, built from the ground up and opened in 2012, and the training center and boutique, which was purchased, remodeled, and opened in 2015. Both buildings are entirely solar-powered and tucked into a campus covered in indigenous, medicinal plantings that burst into verdant growth every summer.
When building the studio space, Sunny relied on his experience in sustainable building for inspiration. “A lot of my roots are in sustainability, permaculture, living lightly, improving, being a steward,” he says. When building, he says, “you make the choices you can to ensure that, over the life of that building, it’s going to use less energy than most buildings.” That meant designing the space to be passive solar natured (so that the sun heats the building in the winter, but doesn’t creep in during the summer); investing in high-quality insulation to keep temperature-regulated air inside; and even choosing materials that required less energy to create. That same ethos applied to the landscape around the building: “Why not use edibles? Why not use medicinals? Why not use natives? Why not demonstrate a way that’s a little bit different from whatever the standard is?”
The space is certainly special, but it’s the classes—and the teachers who teach them—that has made the Center such a reputable destination for yogis. “We lucked out,” Sunny says, smiling. “We’ve been able to maintain relationships with world-class teachers—like, no-joke, world-class teachers, thanks and praises to them.” In his role, he explains, he’s provided the space and situation for these teachers to thrive, without the distractions (like checking in students or having faulty props) they might encounter at other studios. “Same with Steph,” he adds. “She’s helped keep those relationships with those teachers, get them everything they want, and have it be a win-win.”
Teachers from around the world want to come to AYC and teach, including many who passed through their teacher trainings at the Center. “When you get to a point where you are the hub, your rep precedes you,” Sunny says. “The challenge is to figure out who are the winners, who are the ones who really shine. That’s been a challenge for a lot of the new teachers here: They were the rock stars where they moved from; they show up to Asheville, it’s a different story, a different scene, it’s hard to break into that.”
For some teachers, their reputations have established them as local celebrities—like Michael Johnson, whose classes are trumpeted by yogis the city over. It’s teachers like Johnson, and even Stephanie, who define the success of AYC and continue to grow the Center’s reach.
As the largest and longest-standing yoga studio this side of the Piedmont, one has to assume the success of the studio is monetary, too. Perhaps some errant minds may wonder about the seeming contradiction of selling something as soulfully sacred as yoga. When asked how the Keaches reconcile the purity of the practice with profit, Sunny nods knowingly. “After you struggle enough, and after you have some kids, after you take millions of dollars in mortgages, under the weight on your shoulders, you’re like, ‘If this is gonna be sustainable, you’ve gotta make some money, because you have responsibilities to everybody and everything.’”
For years, they poured their profits back into the studio and their teachers, but profiting personally was a necessity. “There’s gotta be some return on that to keep people [like myself] interested. That’s a little bit how business works. What helps me be okay in profiting is that it’s win-win-win: Our teachers are profiting, the employees are profiting, the owners are profiting, the students are profiting… There’s a million other ways to make money out there where you’re just taking advantage of people, and I in no way, shape, or form feel like I’m taking advantage of anybody.”
It Was a Bit of a Stretch
Asheville Yoga Center is a Registered Yoga School (RYS), and its trainings provide the Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) credentials, designations assigned and defined by the Yoga Alliance. These are acronyms you’ll find at the helm of many studios and courses, but they’re particularly significant at AYC because Stephanie was at the forefront of founding the Yoga Alliance.
Detractors of the Alliance argue that the organization flippantly established requirements around hours and content in order to rake in fees. Supporters, like the Keaches themselves, argue that establishing some set of reputable rules for teachers and schools protects the students and requires everyone to uphold a set of reasonable standards. Stephanie describes the designations as a “platform of accountability,” noting, “I think the requirements of 200-and 300-hour teacher training programs have really helped people be accountable for their education and knowledge and safety of yoga practices and ethical guidelines.”
When they first began teaching yoga, Sunny points out, there were no guidelines, so basically anyone could teach and claim to be a teacher. “As the popularity of yoga increased and people started to have teacher trainings, anybody could teach anybody to be a teacher. They could be as crappy as they wanted to be… Some of the concerns [in setting up] this Yoga Alliance group were, ‘People are getting hurt. Hold on a minute, let’s just take a look at this and set up some bare minimum requirements to help people not take advantage of other people, to help people not get hurt, to help bring the level of professionalism up.’”
Sunny understands the hesitation of some practitioners to support the Alliance: “Especially the old school folks, who are like, ‘We don’t need this level of bureaucracy, this isn’t what yoga’s about.’” But he also understands that allowing people to teach yoga without some kind of standard is dangerous, and that Stephanie and the other folks behind the Alliance created it with just that intention.
It’s a sentiment that rings true because Sunny himself is such an adamant detractor of the beaurocratization of yoga. More and more states are adopting efforts to categorize yoga studios as secondary schools of education—“Forcing studios to adhere to community college standards, which drives a lot of studios out of business,” he says. Though the web of yoga studios may be in competition, he certainly supports the free roam of them all.
A Flexible Timetable
That kind of bureaucracy stands in direct opposition to the primary motivation of Steph, Sunny, and the majority of yogis: getting more people into yoga. That’s what’s shifting the industry as a whole and, despite Sunny’s desire for plateau, the Center itself.
As more yogis enter practice, more studios open to meet their needs. A bit of competition within the industry is certainly healthy. Sunny notes that in Asheville in particular, there’s a sense of competition among studios: “Sure, you’re probably going to share students with them, and sure, they’re probably going to take students from you, but we’ve never focused or worried about that; there’s not much sense to it.”
What is worth worrying about, however, is how the industry is being spurred and shaped by corporate mega-chains. “If that gets you in the door, great,” Sunny says of the enterprises. “The concern or fear is they just keep buying up [centers], and you know a lot of these organizations have huge money coming in to keep it growing.” These studios aren’t problematic because of the type of workout they offer—as the Keaches mentioned earlier, perhaps those calorie-counting classes will inspire a more spiritual practice down the road—but because they threaten to monopolize the industry. It’s a question of small businesses versus corporate and the way they’re shaping the American economy.
Another interesting shift in the industry comes at the hands of a common foe: technology. Sunny notes that online classes have both positive and negative effects for studios like AYC. “It’s great for folks who can’t get out, or who are travelers, or have a favorite teacher, but live in a different city; that’s awesome,” he points out. “It’s great to introduce people to yoga who maybe wouldn’t get to a studio because there’s no studio in their area. So that accessibility is 100 percent awesome. It’s not gonna be the same experience as being in a class, or being able to ask a teacher questions, or being able to be adjusted by a teacher, so that’s an unfortunate aspect of it, but I think most people realize it.” He adds that although he’s considered incorporating online courses into the curriculum at AYC, it’s not yet a priority.
So, what are the priorities for the future of Asheville Yoga Center? Like online courses, expansion or franchising has long been an option for the AYC, but not one they’ll pursue soon. Instead, Sunny would like to turn the already bursting training program into a full-blown retreat center.
“I have this big vision that would be like an omega, where we’d be one of the major spiritual center hubs of the country,” he explains. “The element that is missing is the lodging aspect, the live-in, that retreat aspect. You’re all in it together 24-7, and there’s a richness that can come there. There is some lodging, but I have this vision of it being close and tight and all integrated.” But with the current price of property in Asheville, and with his own exhaustion, he’s happy to press pause on the vision and concentrate instead on the Center in its current form.
And Stephanie? She says the same: She’s content with the Center as it is.
Ten thousand miles, millions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of classes later, and the Keaches have realized their dream—thought into being with the crash of Santa Barbara’s waves as a soundtrack—of opening a yoga studio. After all that work and stress, the growing pains both mental and physical, we have to ask a simple question: Why? And for Sunny, the answer is pretty simple, too.
“If there’s one thing that makes this all worthwhile, the stress and strain of owning a business, it’s knowing that Steph and I are doing right in the world,” he confesses, his hand rubbing mindlessly at his shoulder, which is laced with muscles shaped by decades of yoga. “Particularly now, this time and age, where if you visit social media, there’s so much bad news, so much chaos and conflict, and to know that through the years—that was originally an idea of the ‘why,’ and it continues to be a major idea of the ‘why’—it’s counteracting that. It’s helping the world be a more peaceful place. It’s helping people be more grounded and not be a dick.” At that, he can’t help but stop to laugh at his own words.
Those words may come clothed in a casual package, but what he says is scientifically true. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, several studies have shown that yoga improves overall quality of life. The positive effects are mental—like reducing stress and relieving anxiety, depression, and insomnia—and physical—like improving cardiovascular health, increasing strength and physical fitness, and relieving pain. But perhaps most importantly, cultivating mindfulness and awareness through yoga makes you better, and the world, too. In the words of Sunny, it’s helping more people not be a dick.
The positive effects provided by yoga practice at the Asheville Yoga Center are both tangible and intangible—much like the healthful habits that have long shaped these hills. Asheville and her surrounding cities have long offered healing to visitors and locals alike, and by adopting new habits and hobbies like yoga, we ensure those traditions will live on.
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