Creating Community and Divine Space Through Yoga
Liza Bertini calls herself a serial entrepreneur and a seeker, and with good reason. On June 5, she opened Divine Play Space, in Haddonfield, offering yoga for women, parents and children from ages five weeks to teens. However, that wasn’t her first venture. In 2003, she started Devotion Yoga Studio in downtown Hoboken, which is still going strong with the help of her business partner, Patrick Franco. In 2006, Bertini opened a summer-only Devotion Yoga Studio in Long Beach Island and in 2009 opened a second location in uptown Hoboken. In 2008, she collaborated with Sarah Bond, a yoga instructor and nutrition and health counselor, to start One Hundred Skies Yoga Adventures, a company that organizes and hosts yoga retreats in international and domestic destinations.
Bertini grew up in River Edge, New Jersey, where her maternal grandfather was an accountant who ran his own tax firm. “My mother worked there, so I grew up in that office,” she relates. “That may have had something to do with me becoming so interested in entrepreneurship. I always knew I wanted to do my own thing. By the age of 15, I was subscribing to Entrepreneur Magazine.”
Like most seekers, Bertini’s path was neither direct, nor smooth. After studying psychology and business and graduating with a master’s degree in applied psychology, she pursued a career in corporate human resources that lasted 12 years and led her to pursue a certificate in career and life planning from New York University. In 2002, the personal heartbreak of a late, broken engagement shifted Bertini’s path in a new direction.
“I enrolled in the year-long, 200- hour Bright Spirit Yoga Teacher Training, taught in the Hoboken YMCA facility at that time,” she recounts. “It was just what I needed, and since it took place soon after 9/11, everyone was in a time of needing to heal, which made it a very supportive group. Halfway through the training, I decided I needed that kind of community in my life all the time. It dawned on me that Hoboken, a onesquare- mile city of 48,000 people, had no yoga studio, and within a year I opened the downtown Devotion Yoga Studio.” Bertini quickly followed that with the completion of a 500-hour yoga teacher certification at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts and the opening of the uptown Devotion studio. She also became co-director of the Bright Spirit Teacher Training program and gave it a permanent home at Devotion.
Bertini has remained resilient through a number of personal setbacks, including the death of both of her parents over the past several years and the flooding of both Hobo- ken studios during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Although those locations had to close, Bertini carried on, reopening Devotion Yoga in its current Hoboken location, this time on the second floor.
When Bertini became a mother of twins, she moved to the family- friendly town of Haddonfield, where several of her closest girlfriends with children lived. When another entrepreneurial idea came to her, two of her Haddonfield friends, Jill Poretta and Marcy O’Connell, agreed to become her business partners in the new venture, and Divine Play Space was born. “Haddonfield and the surrounding areas have such great family communities,” Bertini notes. “I thought how great it would be to have a non-competitive, safe space in Haddonfield for parents, children and teens to do yoga and develop a supportive, fun yoga community.”
Divine Play Space offers classes for all women (any level and any age, mothers and non-mothers), as well as specific pre-natal and post-natal classes and sessions for children from ages 5 weeks through teenage years. In the fall, the studio is adding more family classes, which include Yoga Story Time for 1-to-6 year olds accompanied by an adult; and fun Friday night events, such as Girls’ Night Out for mothers and daughters; and Yoga for Teen Athletes. Styles featured include Kripalu, hatha, vinyasa, restorative and yin.
The children and teen classes are geared toward the level of attention and activity appropriate for each age. Bertini explains: “Yoga is so beneficial for kids of every age. At young ages, it’s not about sitting still and concentrating. If your child is 7, for instance, we’re not sitting there meditating. We play games; it’s fun and active.”
Bertini also sees clients in oneon- one and group formats for yoga- inspired life coaching and leads retreats and workshops at Divine Play Space and both Devotion locations. These include courses such as the Yoga of Happiness; Living Fearlessly; and Big Jumps:How to Manifest Your Ideal Life. “After many years of searching, I finally realized my soul’s purpose,” affirms Bertini. “I now do what I love most: foster community and provide experiences that inspire others to live conscious, healthy, full and authentic lives.”
Lauressa Nelson is a contributing franchise editor for Natural Awakenings magazine and a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida.