Yoga dalla Vanda Scaravelli
Jul 11, 2009
|The heart of this Yoga teaching system is Vanda Scaravelli's work in yoking gravity and breath to effect expansiveness, release and freedom in the body.
Trained as a concert pianist. For most of her life she lived in Florence and Rome, Italy. It was whilst hosting Krishnamurti in Switzerland that she learnt yoga. Both Krishnamurti and Scaravelli were instructed for several summers by two yoga students recommended by Krishnamacharya. They were Desikachar and B.K.S Iyengar. Iyengar has a formidable knowledge of postures, and Scaravelli also learnt the benefits of incorporating breath with movement from Desikachar. Although these were inmportant sources of information, the yoga that Scaravelli developed came from her "inner teacher", by trusting her body and learning from it, developing a softer more feminine approach to yoga She felt she had discovered, or uncovered something worth sharing with the world and passed on her knowledge through her teachings. Vanda Scaravelli died, aged 91, in Italy in 1999. Scaravelli's yoga teaching continues today through the work of Dona Holleman, Diane Long, Erich Schiffmann, Esther Myers, Mary Stewart, Sophy Hoare, Sandra Sabatini.
Though she came to yoga later in life, her subsequent 50-year practice and teachings have made a profound impact on hatha yoga. By Phil Catalfo
The daughter of artistic Italian parents, wife of a professor of philosophy, and an accomplished pianist, Vanda Scaravelli was accustomed throughout her life to meeting creative artists, intellectuals, and literati. The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti came to stay at the Scaravelli's villa overlooking Florence every year. When Scaravelli's husband died suddenly after World War II, she soon began spending summers with her children at a chalet in Switzerland, where she hosted Krishnamurti during his lectures there. B. K. S. Iyengar would come every morning to teach him yoga; he introduced Scaravelli, then in her 40s, to the ancient discipline, and "a new life came into my body." Thus began her ongoing exploration of what she called allegrezza, "the intelligent heart."
From T. K. V. Desikachar she learned breath awareness; she later formulated her own approach to yoga (in which "you become intelligent and at the same time you are happy") and began to teach others. Her book Awakening the Spine (Harper San Francisco, 1995) became a classic. Since her death in 1999, at age 91, several teachers have carried on her work, most notably Toronto-based Esther Myers. "I practice because it is natural for me to practice," she told Myers in a 1996 YJ interview. "There is no other reason.
I have been subscribing to Yoga Journal for over a year now and it would seem that the yoga of Vanda Scaravelli is more popular in the UK than the US. Why is this I wonder?
I was fortunate enough to begin my yoga journey with Scaravelli-inspired teachers over 14 years ago and although I have strayed into other styles of yoga over the years, my practice and teaching remains predominantly influenced by her. Scaravelli-inspired yoga focuses on lengthening and aligning the spine, using gravity and the breath to tune into the body and really listen to what is right for you - the individual. Once the body's natural intelligence is realised, long-held tensions and tightness can release, allowing effortless comfort and energy to flood back in. The principles of Ahimsa and Satya (non-violence and truthfullness) result in a safe practice, suitable for all.
Points to Consider in Vanda Scaravelli’s System of Practicing Yoga Postures (Asana):
take your time and let go of ambition
the posture will emerge as tensions and imbalances clear from the body
there is no need to "muscle"
find the roots of the posture in relation to the ground (feet, sitz bones, hands, knees, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, spine, pelvis, etc.—whichever part of the body connects with the earth)
keep the body soft as you drop into your "anchoring"—the body part that touches the earth
always give attention to alignment by beginning from the ground up
during your inhalation be passive (remain still)—then move on the exhalation
once stabilized and secure in your posture, watch for the exhalations to begin to triggerripples of release in the spine
sense the dropping action of the sacrum, which precedes the multi-stage releasing of spinal curves, and which occurs at the end of each exhalation
as the sacrum, lumbar and pelvis release, let the exhaled breath release you from the waist up
the resulting wave will clear the upper spine and neck of tension and imbalance
spontaneous, dynamic movement may surprise you! It brings life to the pose
wait until you can do the pose well in this method before deepening it or practicing a more challenging variation
once you are grounded, postures evolve through awareness of the rhythm of the breath and the lengthening of the spine
“scooping” the pelvis while standing is helps with discovering the sense of a wave of release
long natural curves in the spine are desirable as balancers of front / back weight distribution
flat-backed students benefit; as the deep pelvic tensions release, a curve grows
know that while you are in transition from a more "muscle-dependent" style of practice, your muscular corset begins to change and you are temporarily more vulnerable to injury
when you are ready, there is no fear, and the posture arrives easily
have "infinite time-and no ambition"
"Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose."
~ Vanda Scaravelli