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Avery Community Yoga: Community is Where the Heart is

Jenna Stone welcomes everyone to Avery Community Yoga to engage with the many offerings available. Photo by Michelle Lyerly

By Harley Nefe

With ringing in the new year, there is a lot of focus on resolutions – especially when it comes to
wellness and its eight dimensions: financial, vocational, intellectual, social, environmental,
spiritual, emotional, and physical. And there is a locally owned Avery County yoga studio that
believes in the holistic and multidimensional approach to wellness and strives to provide an
inclusive safe space for people of all ages.

Avery Community Yoga, which is owned by Jenna Stone, prides itself on providing affordable
yoga classes and special events that highlight creativity, health, and connection through yoga.

“I originally opened the studio with the intention to build wellness and incorporate that into
Avery County,” Jenna shared. “We are the only yoga studio here. There’s yoga offered at our
local YMCA and wellness center here, but I wanted a more authentic yoga offering. We serve
senior citizens; we serve adults; we serve children. That sets us apart from other studios.”

Avery Community Yoga has been gaining popularity since it opened right before the COVID-19

“It was several months shy of Covid, so it’s really a miracle that we are still here,” Jenna said.
“Whatever will happen, will happen. I just entered my 40s, and I’m really narrowing down with
the intention of what it is I want to do and why. If it’s helping, and it’s bringing me peace and
other people peace, I’m doing it. It’s very rewarding, and I’m just seeing the benefits.”

However, Jenna credits the studio’s success to community efforts.

“I was just moving through the motions when I began this, but I rented a Town of Banner Elk
space. The building that I’m in is a Town building,” she explained. “Rick Owen, who is the Town
Manager, and his wife Nancy Owen – they have been so kind to me. They really want us here.
And during Covid, especially when we couldn’t operate at all, I was terrified. I spent all this
money renovating the space and opening it up, and then the world shut down, and nobody could
come in and exercise. Honestly, how I think I got my following is that the community felt our
intention, and they wanted us to be here. There was somehow a connection and a relationship
between this business and what we offer. People donated to me to keep it going. It’s been a
community effort from the beginning.”

The focus has always revolved around the community, so much that the memorable tagline,
which expresses the greater purpose and mission for Avery Community Yoga, is “Community is
where the heart is.”

Avery Community Yoga is uniquely housed in downtown Banner Elk in the community cultural
arts center at the Historic Banner Elk School. However, the studio’s classes, events, workshops,
meditations, lessons, retreats, and fundraisers extend its reach all around the area.
Jenna’s journey with yoga began when she watched a Rodney Yee video when she was in

“It immediately connected with me,” Jenna described. “His voice, the way he was asking me to
breathe and think – it almost reminded me of some physical therapy I had when I was a child, as
I was a tennis player. It was so amazing to connect my mind and my body together. I’m a very
physical person. I’ve always been inside of my body, and to get everything aligned and balanced
– ever since I did one of his videos, I started going to yoga studios after that.”

More than just attending yoga studios, Jenna began bringing yoga to others and sharing the

Avery Community Yoga offers a variety of services. Different yoga classes include Yin, Flow, Gentle, and Restorative. Photo by Michele Lyerly

“I was offering yoga as a schoolteacher my first year I started teaching school,” she said. “I did it
with the students, and then the principal asked me to teach the teachers after school. I wasn’t
certified, but I was just always doing yoga and always using the breath techniques with my
students and continuously moving into this path of this is the way I want to live. It’s a lifestyle,
and it’s effortless now.”

Jenna used to be an elementary school teacher in Henderson, North Carolina, before she knew
she wanted to move back to the High Country. As a Lees-McRae College alumna and a rock
climber, she desired to come back to the mountains to raise her family.

Jenna practices yoga poses in the studio and shares her knowledge with others.
Photos by Michelle Lyerly

“When I resigned from that job, the principal and I had a big heart-to-heart and alligator tears
when I told her I was going to move back up here,” Jenna shared. “When I left her office, the last
thing she said to me was, ‘I hope you open a yoga studio one day; you’ve built such strong
leadership skills here.’”

“And it was fate,” Jenna continued. “I did message her 15 years later, and I was like, ‘I’ll never
forget what you said to me. You saw the leadership skills in me,’ because I never saw myself as a
leader. I think it was inside of me, and she saw it, and she was like, ‘This is your passion.’”

Alena Nickos leads a sound healing journey. She also sings mantras and guides clients through breath work.
Photo by Michelle Lyerly

Before opening her studio, Jenna started teaching yoga at the YMCA when her children were
young because there was childcare available there. She would drop off her children and then go
teach. As a certified elementary school teacher and having 10 years of experience in the
education field, Jenna took everything she had done and poured it into her passion.

Alena Nickos, who is a mentor to Jenna Stone, leads Sound Journey events at
Avery Community Yoga. The vibrations, sounds, and peaceful instruments relax the nervous
system. Photo by Michelle Lyerly

“Ever since I opened the studio, I’ve been very involved with Avery County Schools,” she said.
“I still take substitute positions there, and my children are in the public school system. I’m a
huge advocate for public education and homeschool education. I would really like to help bring
this mindset to the schools – to get up from the desks and do work on the floor and just all
around, creating wellness in Avery County.”

For Jenna, mindfulness is showing up truthfully with intention and authenticity and being able to
show up unattached.

“It’s worked wonders with me,” she shared. “I am not perfect, and I’m hot-headed and anxious,
and I struggle so much. So, I really don’t know what I would do without it or who I would be.
Just like everybody else, I’m constantly practicing. I’m constantly coming back to the practice.”

Apart from schools, Avery Community Yoga is also involved with churches.

“I’m very spiritual, and yoga helps me stay in touch with that,” Jenna said. “I like the idea of
bridging yoga with whatever you practice spiritually and your mindset and way of living. It
doesn’t have to interfere with spirituality. There can be this controversy, but I really want to bring
yoga to schools and businesses.”

Summer 2022 staff of Avery Community Yoga gather together. Members are close and supportive of each other in wellness and in life by promoting each other’s offerings. Photo by Michelle Lyerly

Avery Community Yoga likes to partner with local businesses in various ways like holding

“We team up with local restaurants, and we support them,” Jenna explained. “In the month of
February for Valentine’s Day, you can get a discount at LP on Main. If you go there, you get a
discount with us, and vice versa. If you come to class, you get a discount there.”

Avery Community Yoga also works closely with Beech Mountain Resort. If someone brings in
their ski pass, they can also receive a discount at the studio.

“I can’t speak enough about the support from Banner Elk and the Chamber of Commerce,” Jenna
said. “There’s a soft, supportive strength that comes from the Town. We get together as business
owners, and ask, ‘How can we help your business?’ We put in good words for each other. When
someone walks into the consignment show to buy a piece of furniture, they are like, ‘Did you
know that there is a yoga studio here?’ When people ask, ‘What is there to do around here?’
Places like Edge of the World respond and say, ‘Take a yoga class!’ We’re in our own little
bubble over here, but we’re growing in a progressive way.”

Another program through Avery Community Yoga is its Kids Karma Club.

“We have children’s workshops once a month, and we focus on something different each
month,” Jenna explained. “Recently, we brought in used clothing, and we took them to Anne’s
Kids, which is a local nonprofit where they put a closet in public schools. At any time, no matter
your economic status, if you need something, you can walk to this closet and get what you need.
They normalize it – shoes, tampons, toilet paper, a hat, coat – and we talked to the kids about it.
We had a great turnout for the one we did for Anne’s Kids.”

However, one of the most popular offerings from Avery Community Yoga is summer goat yoga
classes. Avery Community Yoga partners with Apple Hill Farm to connect the public with a farm
experience and sweet baby goats to play with. Taking place at the mountaintop farm, the classes
act as a peaceful way to unwind by practicing poses in the pasture.

“Being with the animals relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system, and it’s really good for the
animals,” Jenna described. “Instead of farm tours where people are reaching through fences or
standing on top of animals, we’re on the ground, and we’re on the same level. It’s been very
powerful, and we have a waitlist for our goat yoga. It’s popular, but it’s helpful, which is why
I’m doing it. It’s benefiting people and animals.”

Goat yoga is so popular that it’s actually the reason why many people know of Avery
Community Yoga.

“I’ve been asking people, ‘How did you find us?’ and interestingly enough, when you type things
to do in Banner Elk, North Carolina, the very first thing that pops up is goat yoga,” Jenna shared.
“I haven’t done anything on the web to do that, but it’s great because I admire the woman who
owns Apple Hill Farm. She is a force of strength and is so intentional with what she’s doing. Just
to be teamed up with her as two female business owners in a man’s world, it’s inspiring.”

Besides goat yoga, Avery Community Yoga offers a variety of services. Different yoga classes
include Yin, Flow, Gentle, and Restorative.

Yin yoga is a slow, soothing, and meditative style of yoga in which most poses are floor based
and held for longer periods of time. It targets the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, deep
fascia, bones, and joints of the body that are normally not exercised very much in a more active
style of yoga or other exercise regimen.

“It’s very powerful,” Jenna described. “It’s also very accessible for everyone. People of all levels
usually gravitate to that.”

Flow yoga guides clients dynamically from one posture directly into another, initiated by breath.
In Flow yoga, each movement is sequenced to build a mindful practice that benefits the whole
body and specific area of the body.

“Flow classes are for movement, strength, and flexibility,” Jenna said. “It’s like a moving
meditation when you move from one pose to the next. This is great for those who want a little

Gentle yoga is a gentle style of yoga practice that is performed at a slower pace, with modified
positions, and usually includes extended time for meditation, yogic breath work, and relaxation.

“Gentle is perfect for a healing body or for a senior citizen or someone who is post-surgery or
someone who is pregnant,” Jenna described.

Restorative classes guide clients into relaxing poses designed to create a relaxation response in
the mind and body.

“It’s purely relaxation,” Jenna said. “It’s to calm your nervous system. You are comfortable and
relaxed, and you may fall asleep.”

However, all of the types of yoga touch on mental and spiritual peace and aim to ease one’s

“All of them produce the same experience where you come out ready to go – fresh,” Jenna

Apart from yoga, there are also contemporary dance offerings as well as belly dancing.
When asked what she hopes people get out of Avery Community Yoga’s programs, Jenna said

Apart from yoga, there are also contemporary dance offerings as well as belly dancing for people to enjoy participating in.
Many friends dance around the studio as part of a belly dance workshop.

“It’s friendship. It’s a family,” she explained. “People are moving here and coming to the studio
and making friends, especially with the children. We have kids who are coming from both sides
of the county and meeting. It’s a community. They are making connections, and it’s a safe,
neutral space.”

There is something for everyone at Avery Community Yoga. All ages participate in the programs.

“We have someone in their 90s who comes to class, and our Kids Karma Camp is ages 5 and
up,” Jenna said. “We had a mom come to class with her brand-new baby in a stroller, and people
would step off their mats to rock the baby when she would cry.”

There is something for everyone at Avery Community Yoga. All ages participate in the programs.

And Avery Community Yoga’s presence is only growing.

“I reach out to people, and I get out into the community. I am an extrovert, so that’s been pretty
easy for me.” Jenna described. “People come to me, too. Typically, when someone really wants
to offer something, they come to you, and I want the people who are serving in our space to want
to be there and to want to serve. What we are doing is a service. Most of the teachers aren’t there
for the money; they are there because they really want to teach. What you give is what you
receive. We have really built a community there, and it’s a strong flow, and I really like

Jenna further shared that one of her favorite moments is when people come to beginning
workshops together and grow. She likes seeing them walk into the space that is surrounded by
mirrors for the first time.

“When people are really nervous, they will email me, and I will tell them to take a few private
lessons to get comfortable,” Jenna said. “I have sisters coming together and couples coming
together and several clients who come with their whole family. Instead of going to therapy
together, they are coming to yoga to bond. They are coming in and breathing and moving

Avery Community Yoga also offers retreats, where clients can have yoga instructors come to

“What’s interesting during the pandemic was that people were coming here to get away, so our
retreats picked up,” Jenna explained. “People booked Airbnbs and had us come there or at their
mountain homes. When you go to someone’s Airbnb or when people who are so intimate come
to you, it changes the dynamic. It’s different from a group class. We’re almost the vulnerable
ones, but we get all kinds of emails and requests. ‘Can the goats come to our Airbnb?’ No, they
are breastfeeding and can’t leave the farm. But it’s been great to network by reaching out to
massage therapists and catering companies for example. Everybody is making money and
networking. It’s a slow growth, but we doubled our clients this summer. It’s overwhelming and

For more information about Avery Community Yoga, people are encouraged to visit their website
at averycommunityyoga.com or find them on Instagram. Scheduling and booking can also be
done by contacting through email at averycommunityyoga@gmail.com or by calling

The studio for Avery Community Yoga is uniquely housed in downtown Banner
Elk in the community cultural arts center at the Historic Banner Elk School. Photo by Michelle Lyerly