BOONE — Neighborhood Yoga, a local woman-owned business, is celebrating its “Sweet 16” anniversary the weekend of Oct. 22-24.

Since its founding, Neighborhood Yoga has offered more than 20,000 yoga classes to the community and trained over 200 teachers. Its mantra is “Come exactly as you are, awaken to your essence.”

The operation began as a micro-business in proprietor Valerie Midgett’s backyard. Midgett and her husband, Ed, designed and built the 600 square foot studio themselves. For 10 years, Neighborhood Yoga held classes in this space, slowly growing their base of yoga practitioners.

“It was a labor of love. Our clients are the heart and soul of our work,” Midgett said. “In those 10 years, a tight-knit community formed. In that tiny space, we witnessed each other’s growth, formed friendships, and shared our challenges.”

While Midgett holds this original space close to her heart, she had a dream of moving into the downtown district, just a few blocks away. Once the studio’s popularity grew and the space reached capacity, she decided to relocate.

She found the perfect location in an underutilized space on the third floor of the historic building that is now the Shoppes at Farmers. Valerie had a vision of transforming the space into a beautiful expansive oasis for practicing yoga in the middle of downtown. She was dedicated to preserving the integrity of the historic building by maintaining much of the original architecture like the brick walls, wood floors and tin ceiling.

“Because of the community that grew around the practice of yoga, we were able to spread our wings, and take the next step to relocate to our current location in downtown Boone. Still, it was a big leap of faith,” Midgett said.

This leap of faith landed the studio on shaky ground when the COVID-19 pandemic forced Neighborhood Yoga and many local businesses to close their doors. The studio transformed into a virtual business overnight.

While their base shrunk as a consequence, there was a strong core group of members who stuck it out, taking classes online, as the studio’s instructors taught those classes from their living rooms, porches and backyards.

With a combination of creativity and perseverance, the studio managed to remain viable during those 14 months, with little-to-no help in the form of government assistance, but instead because of the strength of the community and the dedication of its teachers. The studio was able to re-open in June 2021 once vaccinations made it safer to come together indoors. Now, the studio is set up for “hybrid” classes, where students can choose to come to the physical space, or they can livestream a class from the safety of their home.

While the business is slowly regaining its footing, an expanding and more regular client base is needed to keep the studio doors open. In order to entice a broader base of people, Neighborhood Yoga is offering a free weekend of classes on their anniversary weekend of Oct. 22 to celebrate 16 years of yoga in the community. Midgett believes that once people step into the space, take a class and meet other practitioners, they will want to stay and become part of the community.

Pre-registration is encouraged as class space is currently limited to 16 as a safety precaution. Other safety features include a fresh outdoor air exchange system, an air purifier, with some classes requiring proof of vaccination to join. Proof of vaccination and social distancing is still required for a participant to remove their mask while at the mat.

In addition to a weekend of free classes, they are also initiating a membership drive. Community members can purchase a monthly contract for a minimum of three months to receive the best pricing on individual classes and receive other perks. Neighborhood Yoga hopes to recruit 20 new members by year’s end.

“We can’t do it without our members. It’s because of the strength of our community that we can still be here now,” Midgett said.

If anyone is “yoga curious,” they can join Neighborhood Yoga in celebrating 16 years and take some free yoga classes this weekend. Their weekly schedule offers something for everyone, from the Tao of Yoga to Vinyasa Flow. For more information, details on the schedule of events and membership options, visit www.neighborhoodyoga.net .

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