Nashville Moment: Liz Veyhl
Liz Veyhl founded Small World Yoga in 2014, bringing yoga to diverse communities. This year, she’s taking another leap, opening Nashville’s first nonprofit yoga studio.
Written By: Margaret Littman
Liz Veyhl, Nonprofit Founder
In 2014, Liz Veyhl founded Small World Yoga (SWY), a nonprofit that makes yoga available to diverse communities that don’t otherwise have access. The need was clearly there: In 2017 alone, the organization doubled in size, from serving 30 partner locations to 57.
Now, more than 1,300 people take advantage of the free asanas offered in libraries, schools, shelters, and elsewhere every month. This spring, the organization takes another big leap forward, opening what will be Nashville’s first nonprofit yoga studio.
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Granted: In 2016, Veyhl received a small grant from The Boedecker Foundation to support the SWY annual fund. When SWY went to apply again the next year, the Foundation asked if having a physical space (in an unused building they owned) was something that would serve its mission. “We had talked about a physical location over the years, but it seemed like too much to have a capital campaign to make it happen,” Veyhl says. “This seemed like an obvious ‘yes.’”
Groundbreaking: This spring, the 1,300-square-foot studio will open on 17th Avenue South—enough space for about 50 yoga mats per class. The community studio will offer a wide range of affordable classes, including heated vinyasa. Funds from these low-cost classes will support the free city-wide outreach. “We want it to be evident that when you are practicing there, it is bigger than just one class; you are supporting yoga in 60 other locations.” In addition to the community studio, SWY will continue to be funded by grants, occasional donation classes at other area yoga studios, and two events, The International Day of Yoga in June and the Music City Yoga Festival in November.
All Together Now: One of the reasons Veyhl, a Nashville native, wanted to launch SWY was to create a support network for yoga teachers who were doing outreach on their own. “Part of it was I was wanting to be supported and inspired by what others were doing.” That’s happened; most classes are taught by two instructors, so they get to work together in the field. A team of 82 certified yoga teachers volunteer to teach the free classes, typically either a gentle restorative class or a more movement-based vinyasa, and will have opportunity to gather in the community studio.
“I would have been one of the first people to judge those men as someone who had done something wrong,” says Veyhl of the population at the DCSO jail where she now teaches her most rewarding weekly class. This is the location where she gets direct feedback on what that hour is doing for participants. “They say, ‘When you give us those last five minutes in savasana, those are the only five minutes of peace and quiet I have all week.’”