"Movement is the song of the body" Vanda Scaravelli
Vanda Scaravelli was an Italian Yoga Teacher who initially studied and was a friend of B.K.S. Iyengar, the renowned yoga guru from India. Vanda, was a pianist who apparently explored her yoga practice through the lightness and natural rhythm of music. She was also a personal friend of J. Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher and teacher who taught Vedanta philosophy, the wisdom of non-duality.
‘There is no age to yoga, you can start at 70, 80, because if it’s done with gravity, with breath, you receive and you don’t go against, and you will never damage the body. The first thing is not to fight yourself. Be ready to receive energy. Energy helps, breathing helps. There is no age’ Vanda.
Vanda discovered a way of practising asanas (yoga postures) that arose from a deep inner enquiry of how to work with the gravitational grounding forces, to release tension in the muscles, fascia and joints of the body, awaken the spine and the deep core muscles while practising focused breathing to enable more freedom and lightness in the body. She found that by working and exploring these principles, a deep intelligence in the body awakened, that helped to restore our normal, natural movement patterns.
‘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.’ VS
‘An intelligent mind makes an intelligent body, a dull mind, a dull body’. VS
Vanda talked about the importance of ‘learn how to listen to your body, going with it not against it, avoiding all effort or strain and centring your attention on that very delicate point, the back of the waist (where the spine moves in two directions)’. VS
‘To follow the way the spine functions during this process of breathing is of the greatest interest. The wave of expansion while exhaling, originating from the spine, is the basis or our teaching.’ VS
Vanda’s unique way of moving rests in the flow of the spine, the breath, gravity and energy. She found that as we work with our breath, accepting the ground under our body and releasing into it, an amazing sense of lightness unfolds within. In her enquiry she felt that there was a natural division in the spine dividing around lumbar third vertebrae, the lower part of the spine above the pelvis and sacrum. From here gravity draws the legs downwards and allows more lightness in the upper body. Without pushing or forcing, these natural responses in the body support the spine to increase in length and it starts to ‘wake up to a deep, beautiful wave like motion. Simultaneously this openness encourages everything else, the shoulders, hips, sacrum, pelvis, neck and head to open and become free.
Vanda was famous for her backbends, which she continued to practise daily until her body consciousness left in 1996.
Vanda wrote the wonderful book ‘Awakening the Spine’, a beautiful book for any yoga student or those interested in simplicity, truth and natural movement.
My current teacher is Diane Long who was a student of Vanda’s for 23 years and tirelessly inspires me, and many of her international students who wish to journey into the world of natural movement. I started studying with Diane in 2004 in India. She is a unique and amazing woman, teacher and guide. She has an incredible gift in being able to share Vanda’s work as well as offering her own, transformational and intuitive teachings. Please refer to Diane’s website www.dianelongyoga.com
Diane together with Sophie Hoare wrote the wonderful book ‘Yoga Notes’ a great companion to any yoga student and teacher who wishes to explore this work in more depth.