Vanda Scaravelli Yoga

When tensions leave, the body goes back to its original state, and balance is re-established. – Vanda Scaravelli

Years ago, at a small yoga studio I regularly attended, I purchased Vanda Scaravelli’s Awakening the Spine. Perhaps what impressed me the most were the images of Scaravelli practicing the asanas. At the time of the book’s first publication (1991), the author was in her eighties. It was inspiring to see a woman of her age showing the poses with such flexibility and ease.

Vanda Scaravelli –  A Tribute (age 85)

Beautiful images of nature, architecture, art are scattered throughout the book complimenting the author’s insightful guidance. The author explains that Awakening the Spine is not the typical instructional yoga book. Instead Scaravelli stresses the importance of learning “how to listen to your body” (16) and avoid “all effort or strain” (16). According to Scaravelli, at the waist, around the fifth lumbar vertebrae, movement goes in two opposite directions: down through the hips, legs, feet and upwards through the top of the head. Gravity pulls the body towards the earth and also allows the body to extend upwards in the opposite direction. This allows tension to be released between the vertebrae (8).

You have to learn how to listen to your body, going with it and not against it, avoiding all effort or strain and centering your attention on that very delicate point, the back of the waist.  – Vanda Scaravelli.

Vanda Scaravelli formed a new approach that emphasized the practice of yoga  with an intelligence that encouraged sensitivity and self awareness. The poses should not be forced but bring ease and freedom. She believed to practice yoga in this way would bring transformation.

Practice transforms the body and the mind and a new life begins
– Vanda Scaravelli

Born in 1908, Vanda Scaravelli grew up in an artistic family in Florence, Italy. Her home life was full of music. She herself studied at the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini in Florence (Scaravelli 184) and became an accomplished pianist. Her father was a business man with a great appreciation for music (184). Her mother and father hosted a salon for a number of well renowned artists (em yogastudio). . Later she married Luigi Scaravelli, a professor of philosophy, and had two children (em yogastudio). Artists, philosophers, and scientists were frequent guests at Scaravelli’s villa near Fiesole, Italy. Musicians regularly congregated and gave concerts (Scaravelli 186).

When Vanda Scaravelli was in her mid forties she was introduced to yoga and took her first lessons with B.K.S Iyengar (Scaravelli 19). She quickly noticed improvement with her health. It was later she learned the importance of breathing with lessons from T.K.V. Desikachar (20). No longer receiving lessons from Iyengar and Desikachar, she continued her yoga practice on her own. This motivated her to find a new approach to yoga (24).

Vanda Scaravelli touched lives through her teaching. Her only published book Awakening the Spine has been quoted from frequently; often coupled with an image of Scaravelli showing a beautiful yoga pose.

Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose. Do not look at your body like a stranger, but adopt a friendly approach towards it. Watch it, listen to it, observe its needs, its requests, and even have fun.

To be sensitive is to be alive  -Vanda Scaravelli

 

Works Cited

The Human Potential Movement

I was excited when I came across Walter Truett Anderson’s The Upstart Spring: Esalen and the Human Potential Movement: The First Twenty Years as I had long been interested in individuality and human potential. Esalen fostered exploration in human potentiality and a new world view. A historical account of an American cultural revolution, The Upstart Spring is an absorbing and fun read. Anderson takes the reader through the history of Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California starting from it’s inception in the 1960’s. Founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price, they brought a number of well known figures to lead seminars such as Aldous Huxley (English author and philosopher), Abraham Maslow (American psychologist), Joan Baez (American singer), Ida Rolf (creator of Structural Integration. Also known as Rolfing), Fritz Pearls (German psychiatrist. Developed Gestalt therapy) and many others. Anderson shares this culturally important history with care and honesty making for an entertaining, sometimes sobering, and informative read. Esalen, over fifty years later, continues to offer workshops and continuing education in arts, psychology, meditation, massage, and movement.