Empowering the Community to Live a Healthy and Affordable Lifestyle

Posted on January 17, 2013 by


One of the many great things about living in Charlottesville is how passionate residents are about health, fitness and overall wellbeing. Now, with the opening of Common Ground Healing Arts, it’s easier and more affordable than ever for Cville residents to access a variety of services that promote a healthy mind and body.

common ground and the jefferson school city center

Located on the second floor of the newly opened Jefferson School City Center, Common Ground currently offers yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and meditation. This spring they’ll be adding herbal medicine, individual counseling from a mindfulness-based perspective, and mindfulness groups around certain topics such as anxiety or parenting. All Common Ground practitioners are experienced and highly skilled at what they do.

Be sure to stop by this weekend for the City Center’s grand opening festivities. Common Ground will be offering acupuncture, yoga classes, and chair massages offered on a first-come first-served basis.

We sat down with Kate Zuckerman, founder of Common Ground Healing Arts, to learn a more about her and how this awesome project all got started. Here’s what she had to say:

Where did you get the idea for Common Ground, and how long has it taken for this dream to become a reality?

kate, copyright barefoot bucha

Kate Zuckerman, Founder of Common Ground Healing Arts

I first started conceptualizing Common Ground (CG) about five years ago. I had moved home to Charlottesville from Los Angeles, and I was struck by the lack of diversity in my classes here. In LA, it was not uncommon to have native Spanish speakers and African Americans in my classes. There was also more of a gender balance in yoga classes; sometimes the students were 50 percent men.

There were also more options for people who couldn’t afford studio pricing. As a teacher, I felt a loss from this lack of diversity, and I started thinking about how to address it. As the idea developed, it became clear to me that other holistic health offerings such as acupuncture, meditation, massage, and herbal medicine were natural partners with yoga in a wellness center context. Really, these traditions are a means to the same end that we are all looking for: optimal health and wholeness.

How does the sliding scale payment system work?

To qualify for the sliding scale, people need to come in and fill out a one-page form. We make it easy for people to access our offerings, and we assume that people will be honest with their income information. You can read more about the sliding scale here.

Why did you choose the Jefferson School City Center as the location for CG, and what are the advantages of being in that space?

Early on in my plans for CG I was connected to Gordon Walker, the CEO of JABA. He has been a mentor to me and he now sits on our Board. When Gordon told me about the history and mission of the Jefferson School City Center (JSCC) it was immediately apparent to me what a great match the space is for CG. Like the JSCC, CG is committed to bringing all members of our community together under the same roof. We share the JSCC’s interest in health and lifelong education. We are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with organizations like The Women’s Initiative, The African American Heritage Center and JABA, to name a few, and to have these organizations help introduce our service to their constituencies.

What is your education and training background?

I have been a yoga teacher since 2002, and I’m passionate about sharing what has been a very valuable practice in my life with other people – particularly people who might not otherwise have access to it or even awareness of what it is. I majored in Latin American Studies at Pitzer College in California, and I have traveled a lot through Latin America, Europe, and Africa. I consider my travels a big part of my education. My professional background has included restaurant management, museum management, and project management. My husband and I also co-own a local kombucha company, Barefoot Bucha.

Did you grow up in Charlottesville? What are your favorite things about living here?

I was born and raised here. I love the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the excellent hiking in this area. I love the swimming holes in the summertime and the fact that hardly anyone knows how to drive in snow in the wintertime (including me) so school gets canceled and everyone gets to stay home! I really enjoy the fact that so many of my high school friends have moved back to this area or never left at all, and everywhere I turn it feels like I’m running into people I know. I think this level of community connection has made it easier for me to develop Common Ground here in Charlottesville.

What are you most excited about with the opening of Common Ground?

The other day an older woman walked in the door and was talking with Santiago, one of our customer service representatives. She was saying that she had never done yoga before, and she was asking him questions about which of our therapeutic classes she should attend. Santiago was doing a great job of directing her to the classes that would be most appropriate for her, and something really clicked for me. Like: Wow, this is really happening! We have a beautiful wellness center, people are walking in, and they are receiving not only our offerings but also personalized service to make sure they get the most out of what we have to offer.

What’s your favorite form of exercise?

For me, yoga is a spiritual practice and not an exercise, so I would have to say walking in the woods and swimming laps. Both are very meditative, and as a bonus they help me stay fit.

Do people need to have a referral or an appointment for services like acupuncture, or can they just walk in?

For yoga classes you can just drop in. For acupuncture, drops-ins are accepted during our clinic hours but you can also call to make an appointment to guarantee your spot. For massage therapy you need to make an appointment in advance, but if we have availability we can sometimes squeeze you in on the same day.