What is Scaravelli? If you’ve never heard of Scaravelli-inspired yoga before, then you should read this article first. Then you can go back and read the rest of the articles in this series.
Scaravelli Inspired Yoga is a form of yoga practice that respects the “revolutionary” understanding of yoga shared by Vanda Scaravelli during her later years and through her book “Awakening the Spine.”
Who was Vanda Scaravelli?
Vanda Scaravelli, the namesake of Scaravelli, inspired yoga, was born in 1908 in Florence, Italy, to a highly musical and intellectual family.
Her mother, Clara Corsi, a teacher, was one of the first Italian women to graduate from University. Her father, Alberto Passigli, a successful businessman, was instrumental in music and opera, helping to create the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. The Orchestre Stabile enables Florence to have its own orchestra; Vanda herself trained as a pianist to concert level under the tutelage of Ernesto Consolo. During her childhood and family life, she was exposed to some of the century’s most formidable artists; the family villa, Il Leco, became a salon for such masters as Arthur Schnabel, Arturo Toscanini, Federico Fellini, Bronislaw Huberman, Pablo Casals, and Andres Segovia.
Vanda married Luigi Scaravelli, Professor of Philosophy at Rome and Pisa Universities, with whom she had two children. Sadly and unexpectedly, Luigi died shortly after WWII.
Each year, Vanda rented a chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, and it was during this time of experiencing the loss of her husband that she first met and observed the yoga practise of the then titled “Yoga Raja,” B.K.S.Iyengar.
Who taught Vanda Yoga?
Vanda’s friend, the violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin, was a student of B.K.S Iyengar. In 1954, Iyengar accompanied Menuhin on his tours as his personal instructor. Also, Menuhin, a great humanitarian, shared the powers and benefits of yoga embodied in the yoga adept B.K.S. Iyengar; by introducing him to the UK, France, Germany, and Switzerland. During this time, they stayed for some months as Vanda’s guests in Gstaad.
Vanda spent time observing and then became an Iyengar student, notably along with her other good friend, Jiddu Krishnamurti. Some years later, the esteemed yoga teacher and son of Krishnamacharya, T.K.V. Desikachar, was invited by Krishnamurti to come to Gstaad, and there he taught both Vanda and Krishnamurti about the importance of the breath, ‘pranayama,” an extension of the breath/life force.
How is this Yoga different?
Here we get a clue of the vibrant melting pot in which Vanda Scaravelli, then in her 40’s, came to start a journey of discovery through yoga, which led to her realisations about the effects of gravity and the breath and the potential of awakening the spine. In the introduction to her book ‘Awakening the Spine’, she states
“What is this new teaching? A revolution has to take place. A revolution based on one very simple physical truth. There is a division in the centre of our back where the spine moves simultaneously in two opposite directions: from the waist downwards towards the legs and feet which are pulled by gravity, and from the waist upwards, through the top of the head, lifting us up freely.
The pull of gravity under our feet makes it possible for us to extend the upper part of the spine, and this extension also allows us to release tension between the vertebrae. Gravity is like a magnet attracting us to the earth, but this attraction is not limited to pulling us down. It also allows us to stretch in the opposite direction towards the sky. “
Is this a living practice?
Vanda was adamant that this “new yoga” wasn’t a style or system to be copied or achieved. Instead of a way of experiencing connection, an expression of life through which the spine wakes up.
The experience of connection comes from being present in the moment. In the body, relating to your external environment and gravity and your internal environment with the breath. Here are some of Vanda’s words on gravity,
Galileo, Newton, Einstein, all worked passionately around this mysterious phenomenon of gravity, which holds the miracle of our existence.
Breath and movement
On Breathing, Vanda said ‘Breathing is the essence of Yoga.
Breathe naturally, without forcing — no pressure or disturbance. Nothing should interfere with the simple, tide-like movement of our lungs as we breathe in and out.
After a while, if we are paying attention, we will find that the last three vertebrae closest to the ground begin to receive life.
The energy running along the back of the spine from it’s base to the top of the head increases in power, making the spine alive and strong.
The key to Vanda Scaravelli’s approach is in understanding that there is no way to force a release; we only have to invite it. As Vanda herself explained in her book, Awakening the Spine:
You have to learn how to listen to your body, going with it and not against it, avoiding all effort or strain. You will be amazed to discover that, if you are kind to your body, it will respond in an incredible way.Vanda Scarvelli
People become more and more interested in this method because they see how slowing down and giving the body time to respond can help. With less effort, there is less strain, which means there are fewer chances for injury. The body also becomes more resilient and responsive.
Vanda Scaravelli died in Italy in 1999 at the age of 91.
Inspired yoga teachers
Many teachers continue this exploration of the human being through yoga. They are following in Vanda’s footsteps, which has become ‘Scaravelli Inspired Yoga.” Vanda’s principal student was Diane Long. She studied with her for 23 years and, as such, is the most directly connected to her. She is known for her directness of communication and her humour and is very popular. Diane is based in Rome but regularly teaches in the U.K. Sophy Hoare practised with Vanda in her last year of life, which profoundly affected Sophy. She also met Diane Long at Vanda’s and invited Diane to teach her. They continue to practise and train together. Sophy lives and works predominantly in the U.K.
Yoga Teacher Trainers
Marc J Acquaviva (aka Woolford) is known for his extraordinary teaching in the Scaravelli-inspired vein. He has developed a way of introducing students to what he calls “conditions.” Once recognised, the habitual patterns of stress-related to muscular and mental tension can be released and ‘Scaravelli Inspired Yoga’ results. Or you experience your natural state.
He has formed the Acquaviva School of Yoga to pass this work on to others. We are fortunate that Marc will be running several workshops at Isle of Yoga on the Isle of Wight for 2015.
Teacher and student traditions
Following this great tradition, Erling studied for his 200-hour Diploma 2 with Marc and embraced this teaching passionately. The student is now the teacher, and he teaches workshops, retreats, and classes at Erling Yoga, his studio and base on the Isle of Wight.
Erling is a qualified teacher and offers private tuition and group classes. His approach is warm, friendly and easy-going. He is passionate about sharing the teachings of Vanda Scaravelli and his own unique style of teaching.
If you would like to visit the island and do yoga, we have an excellent place for both. Please get in touch for availability.
Scaravelli-inspired yoga teaches how to move with intention.
It focuses on the felt sense of you and breathing.
It encourages you to surrender.
It is gentle and accessible.
It is a path to self-discovery.
It is a method of moving.
It is a way of living.
It is a journey.
It is a process.
It is a philosophy.