Inspired by the teachings of Vanda Scaravelli (1908-1999) this deeply reflective style of hatha yoga is both accessible and challenging. Classes highlights the profound connection between the breath, gravity, and spinal elongation. The core premise of the practice is that because we are always breathing, and gravity is always acting on the body, we can harness and utilize these powerful tools in order to mobilize and enliven the spine. In this way yoga can be practised safely and in a manner that is constantly unraveling tension, and allowing the body to experience freedom, dynamic ease and comfort.
This style of yoga is all about freedom: freeing the body, and particularly the spine, to be light and flexible. Yoga works through your body-mind connections, so you’ll probably free your mind as well, developing more self-reliance, patience and compassion in your practice. Vanda Scaravelli’s example gives us all permission to follow our own yoga path, wearing traditions lightly and becoming our own best teachers. She puts it this way: “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 spoke often of the importance of surrendering to gravity and dropping the bones towards the earth, and it can take real time (sometimes several years!) and persistence to experience this sense of softening and releasing with real clarity. As Vanda realised, the body needs patience:
Vanda Scaravelli was born into an artistic, musical and intellectual family. Her father, Alberto Passigli was involved in creating the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino as well as the Orchestra Stabile. Her mother, Clara Corsi, was one of the first women graduates from an Italian university. Her early life was very much a musical one and many world class musicians such as Arturo Toscanini were frequent visitors to the family villa, Il Leccio.
Vanda Scaravelli was a concert standard pianist herself, and maintained her involvement in music throughout her life.
She married Luigi Scaravelli, a Professor of Philosophy, with whom she had two children. Tragically, Luigi died suddenly, shortly after World War II. It was around this time that she was introduced to BKS Iyengar by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Iyengar taught daily classes to Jiddu Krishnamurti, whom Scaravelli had known earlier in life through her father. Thus she took up yoga in her late 40s.
Some years later, Krishnamurti invited Desikachar to the Scaravelli’s Chalet Tannegg in Gstaad, where he taught them about the importance of the breath (pranayama), which became one of the principle themes in Vanda Scaravelli’s teaching. After this, Vanda Scaravelli continued to study with Iyengar and Desikachar for some years as she developed her approach towards the breath, gravity and the spine.V