By Sandra Hackman
Looking for a fun and funky way to let go of the old year and usher in the new? Join in JourneyDance at Serenity Yoga Center in Bedford on Saturday, December 29, from 4 to 5:15 pm. The event—open to all who have preregistered by December 27—will teach simple sequences and allow free exploration designed to “reconnect you with your innate state of joyous well-being.”
Serenity may be one of Bedford’s best-kept secrets. Toni Bradley, a Bedford resident, founded the center in 2000.
“I had been practicing yoga for just a few years, recovering from a serious illness at the age of 49,” she recounts. “I had no desire to be a teacher, but my instructor encouraged me to take teacher training at Kripalu (the world’s largest yoga center, in Stockbridge, MA) to deepen my practice. I returned from part two of the training in August 1999, and by November I had rented space at 18 North Road to start a studio.”
An engineer by profession, Toni at first taught just a handful of free classes limited to four students. The studio, however, quickly expanded to allow larger classes taught by several teachers. Then, in February 2011, Toni moved the studio to newly renovated second-floor space at 363 Great Rd. (above Great Road Gallery,across from Shawsheen Cemetery).
Serenity now offers some two dozen classes taught by 12 teachers. The offerings range from beginner and gentle to intermediate and Vinyasa (flow). Many classes have a theme, such as candlelight, restorative, slow flow, or “hour of power.” “Yoga fit and strong” combines a cardio workout with stretching and relaxation.
All the classes foster mindfulness. “What drives me in teaching yoga is that it offers emotional and mental as well as physical benefits,” Toni says. Serenity students range in age from 17 to 80. Many are from local towns, but some live in New Hampshire or travel from as many as 50 miles away to work with a particular teacher.
Serenity is one of only two Kripalu-affiliated studios in Massachusetts, half a dozen in New England, and a few dozen worldwide.
“It’s an honor to be invited to affiliate,” Toni notes. “Many of our teachers are Kripalu-trained—but all have a Kripalu heart”: that is, compassion for each individual and a desire to encourage students to discover their own practice. The Kripalu approach “encourages people to tune in to what they feel in their own body.”
The studio also offers individual sessions to people with injuries and illnesses. Toni herself has taught yoga to terminally ill patients, and worked with people with panic-level anxiety—some so severe they could not leave their homes.
“Yoga is a 100 percent cure for people with mild to severe anxiety,” she says, “an affliction of young and old alike in today’s world.”
She is working with the Bedford VA to offer a new class in January for veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). The class—led by two teachers trained to work with people who have faced trauma—will encourage the vets to “get into their own bodies and be in the present moment, and to be more accepting of themselves.”
Serenity instructors will also teach yoga to Bedford high school students at the gym on the evening of January 15. A student in the school’s peer-mentoring group is organizing the event to help students build endurance and combat stress. After learning each pose in the “sun salutation” sequence, students will practice it multiple times together with the lights turned low.
The studio offers a range of signup options, including 5-, 10-, or 20-class packs to be used within 3 months, or a monthly unlimited card. A “30 days for $30” option is available to new students. That low-cost choice allows students to find the right teacher by attending as many classes as they want for a month. Students can also drop in for a single session.
“We are taught to show compassion for other people, but rarely for ourselves,” Toni observes. “Your body is the best teacher you will ever have. We are here to guide you and show you how to protect yourself. But how to express a pose comes from each person. We encourage you to let each posture grow from the inside out rather than trying to look like picture in a magazine.”
To register for JourneyDance or find out more about the studio’s classes and teachers, see https://www.serenityyoga.com/index.php.