Jiiva Celebrates 4 Years of Building CommunityNov 04, 2019 12:37PM ● By Erica Mills
When founder Berta Prevosti opened The Jiiva Center in Stratford four years ago, it was a big step toward fulfillment of a years-long instruction from various meditations telling her to “build an ashram.” An ashram is a place of community, healing and peace; these are the attributes Prevosti has infused her space with. “I was very clear from the start that I was not just opening a yoga studio,” she says. “I wanted to have a healing center where people could feel safe to explore energy, yoga, understanding why we’re here and spiritual practice. That is what matters to me.”
Prevosti’s personal experiences led her to this work, beginning with yoga and landing her in a Reiki 1 certification class with a girlfriend, kind of as a lark. “I wasn’t expecting anything in particular,” she says now. “But when I was attuned it was like someone had plugged me into an electrical socket; I had such a profound response to the energy. This world of healing chose me and hit me over the head from the start.”
Since then, over several decades and in different places, Prevosti has made it her life’s work to be teacher, guide and Sherpa for others interested in their own healing. The Jiiva Center is foremost a center for education, she says, where she teaches all levels of Reiki as well as Vinyasa-based yoga practice, Ashtanga yoga and meditation. She has a staff of teachers now, all hired from the 200 HR and 300 HR Yoga Teacher Training classes she has taught, and runs multiple destination retreats each year.
“The retreats came about because everywhere I went I could envision people gathering in community and friendship to learn and heal,” she explains. The first retreat she facilitated was to Vermont and 18 people attended. The success of that first trip led to multiple years leading groups to Jamaica and now Bali. Shorter weekend events take place at a convent in New Jersey, where meditation, yoga, hiking and a labyrinth all feature prominently. Several retreats are being planned for 2020, including a juicing/cleansing retreat in January in New Jersey; an advanced meditation retreat in New Jersey; and a trip in summer 2020 to Spain and the Pyrenees to a medieval property that has been in Prevosti’s family for generations.
Prevosti is currently finishing her third 100-hour meditation teacher training and says, “I love all the things I’ve learned and practice, but meditation, for me, is the most profound. Everything we do is in preparation to bring us back home. Meditation is the key.”
No previous experience is needed to attend a Jiiva event or retreat; Prevosti says all are welcome. “I don’t want anyone to ever feel that they are not welcome here,” she says. “The whole purpose is to make these activities accessible and make it possible for people to have their own special and spiritual experience.”
To that end, on retreats and in classes at the center, the emphasis is on the teacher supporting the participants. “We’re always assisting and helping so people of all ages and abilities can join in,” she explains. “This work isn’t about the teacher in the front of the class showing off, it is about the teacher assisting their students and each of us assisting the other.”
Prevosti has studied in India and the Himalayas; Ashtanga Yoga, with its 8 Limbs philosophy, underpins all the programs offered by Jiiva. “Ashtanga 8 Limbs is what we follow and is everything we do,” she says. “Everything we do is bringing us to Samadhi, the 8th limb [enlightenment]. All is in preparation. It is all about friendship, community and connection.”
Those principles are exactly what Prevosti and her students-now-teachers have been providing to the Stratford and wider Fairfield County communities for the past four years. She says she still has a hard time believing it sometimes, especially considering obstacles that popped up along the way, including a major flood just a few months after opening and moving into the current space. “It was a total mess, but people kept joining and coming, even when the place was being rebuilt and redecorated,” she says. “I have known for years that if people are supposed to find me, they will find me.”
It was true when she was a single mom practicing Reiki in her dining room and it’s still true now that she has a beautiful dedicated space and a large, growing team. She was tasked with building an ashram and she has been creating that vision ever since.
The Jiiva Center is located at 2900 Main St, Suite 1A, Stratford. For a class schedule, more information or to make an appointment, call 203-345-7747 or visit JiivaCenter.com. See ad, page 19.
Nicole Miale is Publisher of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley, CT. Connect with her at [email protected].