Who is Vanda Scaravelli?
You can search for Vanda Scaravelli on the internet and read about an incredible Italian woman who was a concert pianist and took to yoga in later life that she practiced with such grace into her nineties. One reason you may have never heard of her is that she never wanted any Yoga schools named after her. She encouraged self-practice focusing on breath, gravity and the spine.
My name is Paul and I started doing gym class yoga when my body started picking up injuries in my mid 20’s, my mental health was picking up injuries as well. Years later, being introduced to the amazing woman, Vanda Scaravelli, and her concepts, certainly had a lasting effect.
Being a sporty fella as well as having an interest in meditation through movement (what, sit still and meditate???!!) I was attracted to Ashtanga Yoga bringing all my competitiveness and strong ideas. It wasn’t easy and there were many learning experiences along the way. So many different teachers with different methods and my curiosity wanting to try out everything that I was introduced to.
Old injuries persisted and new ones flared up so that my practice would retreat from what I had previously been able to do. The mind occasionally becoming despondent and disappointed, wanting to take everything oh so seriously.
It was during a teacher training course that I was introduced to Scaravelli Yoga. Delivered by a wonderful woman called Judi Cameron, what I first heard was that Vanda Scaravelli believed in not needing teachers, ironic learning this on a teacher training course, right? We were guided through an extraordinary practice. Gentle and grounded. Focused on developing an awareness of our spine and moving from there.
Have you ever watched a baby on its back? Grounded through its spine, exploring all its moves and repertoire – grabbing a big toe and trying to put it in its mouth, kicking legs up in the air ecstatically, flowing with joy in its very being. As babies we all had these moves within us, only now over the years, we have added layers of stiffness which in some cases can restrict us and cause discomfort.
Vanda would use yoga asana, encouraging individual exploration of ones body with awareness of our spine and the grounding and uplifting relationship in accordance with gravity. She would look into nature for inspiration looking at patterns, shapes and structures. Trees, waves, mountains and fauna, observing the traits they have in common with us.
Scaravelli practice allows one’s own curiosity to explore moving and breathing at a chosen pace, whilst learning about this body in which our very existence resides. Slowly peeling back the layers revealing new space to move into. Giving oneself permission to be our own teacher is empowering. Developing our own intuition, trusting ourselves, trying things out, exercising discernment, making choices, experimenting. All facilitated through Scaravelli’s principals of kindness, compassion and patience towards ourselves.
Hopefully a problem is no longer a problem, simply a place we practice up to and look at, breathe into and see if anything changes or if nothing changes being fine with either. The practice allows us to try new things on the mat and even off the mat – Have you ever tried Rolfing?
What became apparent to me is that yoga isn’t about touching our toes in elaborate ways. The practice of yoga can be honed by exploring touching our toes in different ways. Touching our toes in elaborate ways is a bi product of yoga. Gymnastics that shall eventually pass. Attaching to a shape to seek the answer to our problems seems futile.
If yoga is for everyone who wants to participate, the gymnastic shapes seem less relevant when you meet people with serious injuries, life changing injuries or a debilitating muscle wasting disease.
Everyone can benefit from Scaravelli’s principals of moving their bodies as best they can, whilst focusing on breathing and recognising our relationship with gravity.
I can recommend her beautiful book ‘Awakening the Spine’ by Vanda Scaravelli.