THE LEGACY OF VANDA SCARAVELLI
"The deeper the roots penetrate into the ground, the taller and stronger grows the tree."
Vanda Scaravelli, Awakening the Spine
Vanda Scaravelli was an Italian pianist who was introduced to Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar in Gstaad, Switzerland in the early 1950's. By this time she was in her 40s and Iyengar was the yoga teacher of a close friend of hers, the spiritual leader J. Krishnamurti who used to spend the summer months as her guest at the Chalet. From then on she practised Yoga for many years not only with Iyengar but also with T.V.K. Desikachar who was also invited to spend some time in Gstaad to teach Krishnamurti and Vanda.
Later on, when Iyengar and Desikachar were no longer coming to Gstaad, Vanda continued her yoga practise and developed her own approach to yoga which is a very individual way of working with the body. It was never her intention to create a method or a specific kind of yoga and that is why there is not such thing as 'scaravelli yoga', her followers are simply Scaravelli-inspired.
To understand what Scaravelli inspired yoga is, I like to evoke Vanda's own words in her book 'Awakening the Spine': "What I gradually discovered is that we have three friends: gravity, breath and the wave. By wave, I mean that undulating, supple extension along the spine. These three companions, fused into one, should remain with us constantly."
When we start to pay attention to these principles our body starts to release tension, creating length in the spine, developing a sense of expansion and lightness that translates into freedom of movement. In paying close attention to our breath, we get to know its true nature, a pure exercise of mindfulness that sets the grounds for meditation or in this case, a moving meditation.
Vanda's legacy is therefore, and according to my own experience of it, a yoga practice firmly rooted in the principles of non violence and truthfulness - accepting what it is, as it is, with full body awareness, dedication and delight. We learn to release tension from our body, find connections within the body and discover a sense of the body in space that allows a true sense of freedom. When we take the time to develop an intimate relationship with ourselves we realise how extraordinary is this body we inhabit and meet its full potential - Scaravelli inspired yoga.
Enjoy the ride!