When it comes to telling the story of High Point Yoga School, owner Jenn Newton, isn’t afraid to talk about the hard parts. In fact, she has built her entire business on acknowledging that it’s okay not to always have it all together.
“People have in their mind that yoga teachers should be the certain way,” Jenn says. “They should be very spiritual and perfect. And I was living proof that we're not. We're human, and we make mistakes.”
So to understand High Point Yoga School, and the mantra they’ve come to be known for in the High Point community, “Let that sh*t go,” you have to understand Jenn’s story first.
Her yoga story starts back in 2010. After she had her third child, Jenn wanted to take practical steps to become healthier and lose some baby weight.
“I was a member of the YMCA so I tried every class they offered,” Jenn remembers. “I didn’t like yoga, but yoga was the most tolerable,” she laughs now.
“But something happened, and it stuck,” Jenn says. “I felt better on the inside.”
After several years of seeing the improvements yoga had on her own life, Jenn decided to apply to teach yoga classes at the Y, and eventually started working as a yoga instructor at Yoga Mindset in High Point. Soon, yoga wasn’t just something Jenn did to lose weight; it became part of her healing journey.
"I was a big part of the recovery community,” Jenn explains, noting that in 2016, she was eight years sober, recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. “And in the recovery community, we talk a lot about a spiritual connection. I never found it there, but I found it in yoga.”
Yet as many people recovering from addiction know, recovery is rarely linear.
“I had a relapse, and everything just fell apart,” Jenn remembers. “I wouldn’t say it was a bump in the road. I’d say I crashed into a mountain.”
In 2017, the year following her relapse, Jenn faced some of her toughest moments. She felt the backlash from a public fall, after being a champion of the AA community and recovery process. Jenn remembers sponsoring AA members and baking cakes for people in the recovery community, celebrating anniversaries of sobriety. And in the midst of the crash, she wondered if she’d ever be able to recover from this sort of loss.
But to her shock, during those darkest days, Jenn found that the community she had formed wasn’t gone. The people she had helped weren’t lost. And the practice where she found healing was still offering a path back to recovery.
Desperate to return back to a sense of normalcy, Jenn signed up for intensive yoga instructor training in 2017, traveling to Charlotte to log 200 hours' worth of teacher training. With the support of her husband and family, she began to clean up the broken pieces of her life. But she wondered if anyone would be willing to take a chance on her again.
“I remember saying to my husband, ‘I’ll never work in this town again,’” the Thomasville-native says of her work in High Point. But Jenn was proved wrong by one special community member, Debbie Maier, owner of Pure Light Yoga and DeBeen Espresso.
“I am forever grateful to Debbie for giving me that chance when no one else would,” Jenn says. But even with the spot on the teacher roster, Jenn worried that she still wouldn’t have any students show up to her classes. “But people showed up and were happy to see me. People fought for me, and they were in my corner.”
Even though she was sober and back on track in teaching, Jenn still felt a tremendous amount of shame and guilt. And it took the power of those people in her corner to help her to see herself in a new light.
“What sprung up around me was this amazing community of people who believed in me when I didn't quite believe in myself,” Jenn says. One of those people was her dear friend, Audrey.
“When I fell, she was my youngest child’s preschool teacher, so she had a front row seat to the whole thing,” Jenn says. As soon as Jenn came back to teaching, Audrey was one of the first students to sign up for a beginner’s series class.
“I can't believe someone who saw the really nitty gritty is showing up to let me teach them,” Jenn recalls thinking. “And it’s not just her. There are so many people who I thought would never forgive me who have rallied around me.”
And as her confidence in herself and in her community began to grow, Jenn began carving out her own unique niche to yoga – a niche that let her students be as messy and as unfiltered as they needed to be to show up and practice.
“People know they can come to my class and not be judged. They can be exactly who they need to be. They can be as messy as they need to be or as emotional as they need to be,” Jenn says. “I'm very transparent about who I am, what I've done, and the power of healing and the power of community. I always wanted to take all of that and give it to other people."
As Jenn continued pursuing additional teaching certifications, she began considering opening her own spot, despite the fact that it was 2020, and our world was in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. The opportunity came when she drove by her friend Katie’s former shop, State & Main, on Church Avenue. Jenn saw a for rent sign in the window, and saw that the leasing agent was Cam Cridlebaugh at Atlantic Realty. And Cam just so happened to be one of Jenn’s students.
“It just sort of all came together,” Jenn reflects. "I called Cam, and he got me in the same day. As soon as I walked through the door, I thought, ‘This is going to be my place.’”
That was in August of 2020, and on October 1, 2020, Jenn held her first class at her very own studio, High Point Yoga School. And while Jenn describes the experience of starting her business during COVID-19 terrifying, she was soon thrilled by the outpouring of support she received.
“Back when I was at the Y, people clicked with me because of my honesty and my rawness,” she says. “I had sort of gathered this following in town, and I'm so grateful for that. I didn't know in the beginning if they would follow me here. I just hoped that enough would that I could pay the rent."
Today, Jenn has 8 instructors on payroll, has held her own yoga teacher trainings, and won Best Yoga Studio in the Triad from YES! Weekly in 2021. Her community extends beyond just her students, and now includes other High Point business partners like Brown Truck Brewery, Paddled South Brewing Co., Willow Wellness Center, and more.
And High Point Yoga School lives up the heart Jenn had for it when she started – to be a safe space to be real and to be healed.
Jenn says that she has students come into class after some of the hardest moments of their lives: saying goodbye to a beloved pet, beginning a marital separation, even losing loved ones.
“I've always asked the same question to every one of them: ‘Why are you here? There are so many other places you could be.’ And they always say, ‘I knew this was the safest place for me to come,’” Jenn says. "To hear people say that... to know we have facilitated that here, is all I ever wanted.”
Nowadays, Jenn has purposed in her heart not to let her story be defined by her mistakes; instead, she has reclaimed them and allowed them to empower her to support others struggling.
“I have stumbled across the me of the past in my yoga classes,” Jenn says, noting students who come to her to seek help for their own addictions or how to support loved ones facing addiction. “Even though it’s been five years, I'm just now getting to this place in life where I've really closed the book on that part of my life. Now I'm living in this new chapter."
Jenn says that there are still days where she finds herself hanging onto the “corrosive” memories, instead of replacing her low points with new, positive moments.
“Life is made up of millions of moments,” Jenn often reminds herself and her students. “Keep filling yourself up with these moments, these really bucket-filling moments. Don’t get stuck on just one moment. Keep moving.”
Discover our High Points,
The HPD Team