“You must only undo. The more you undo, the more you are and the more things come to you. Don’t try to become; you are.” Vanda Scaravelli Vanda Scaravelli was an Italian lady who was in...
“You must only undo. The more you undo, the more you are and the more things come to you. Don’t try to become; you are.” Vanda Scaravelli
Vanda Scaravelli was an Italian lady who was in her late 40’s when introduced to the importance of breathing by her friend – philosopher Krishnamurti’s friend – Desikachar. This marked the beginning of Vanda’s yoga journey and the breath became the essence of her teachings to come.
After this event Vanda continued to study with B.K.S. Iyengar and Desikachar, both students of Krishnamacharya (often named the father of the modern yoga), until she developed her own approach to the yoga practice. You may have heard about Scaravelli Yoga, Intuitive Yoga or Scaravelli Inspired yoga. Know that Vanda herself would have never named her approach or called it a style.
Thankfully, in my first year of yoga teaching, Vanda’s book ‘Awakening the Spine’ landed in my hands, which lead me to a promptly spontaneous trip from Byron Bay to Toffia/ Italy, where I spent a week with Diane Long, (Vanda’s main student, who studied with her for almost 25 years) to discover the art of practicing a la Scaravelli in the intimate setting of Diane’s own chalet. Since then I make the effort to practice with Diane as often as I can.
During this first visit Diane thoroughly shattered my understanding of yoga.
What I learned was perplexingly contradictory, but a surprising relief at the same time. Diane showed me how to practice without stress, and with the emphasis on un-doing a posture and feeling my being in space. It got me closer to, what I could call my true, more liberated self. I completely fell in love with this practice and cannot express how thankful I am that this all happened to me. **
This yoga is like a homecoming to the body and a evolutionary remembrance of where our yoga practice originated from: the breath.
It’s a way into understanding how the body holds habits and patterns and how to refine our attention and how to rediscover completeness in being and movement with more presence, curiosity and joy.
Since then this approach has been infusing not just my yoga practice and teaching, but everything I do. The way I cook, wash the dishes, speak, learn, surf and make love. It’s about freedom. It’s about listening to and trusting my intuition.
Through my current training with Tom Myers (Author of the book Anatomy Trains), and the fascia research that is published and translated in a more and more digestible, applicable way, it becomes clearer to me that what Vanda expressed through her teachings is now finding some important scientific reflections.
Fascia is a form of connective tissue that is very rich in nerve receptors which gives the body constant feedback to its position in space and movement, but also to all body parts in relation to each other. This is what we call proprioception.
And because fascia is a continuum, it processes and communicates information received from other sensory organs, which is the reason why it is also often referred to as our sixth sense.
Kinematics uses the term ’embodiment’, describing the feeling of being at home in our body.
Through this better understanding of fascia, its form and functions combined with the concept of tensegrity [tensegrity = tension + integrity] it’s easier to grasp why the yoga practice has this imperative healing and transformational effect on us. (For me as former science teacher – this is very comforting.)
Today’s fascia research, fascia training systems and movement modalities, but also traditional yoga styles like Vini-, Iyengar-, Yin- or Kundalini Yoga, as well as manual therapy approaches like Osteopathy or Structural Integration (aka Rolfing) all prove Vanda’s point:
‘The feeling is more interior, because the motion is inside, the feeling is inside. It’s a feeling of well-being while you do the poses not to achieve. You must never have in mind what you want to do but what the body can accept.’ – Vanda Scaravelli
In Vanda’s approach of practicing yoga we allow the breath and gravity to undo tension in body and mind – which results in greater body awareness, a more natural alignment, flow of movement, flexibility and a deeper connection to self.
Instead of a rigid way (often over – thinking and – stretching or even harmfully performing postures) of practicing and blindly following a system that confines the practitioner to sometimes inappropriate forceful alignment and only ‘one’ way of doing it – here we BE the yoga practice and allow our inner teacher to guide us. Let me reassure you, like with many things – this takes practice and time.
Vanda’s idea was to emphasise the listening to ourselves and to find our own way of moving freely, more courageously and confidently.
I honour and practice different yoga ‘styles’ and very much agree, that every tradition and approach has its reason and finds its corresponding receiver. Iyengar, Yin, Restorative, Power Vinyasa , Kundalini or Asthanga Yoga can be an opening door for people from every walk of life.
Yet a free – less confining movement-meditation practice, that is based on the breath, our feeling of innerness and gravity – in that we seek for the spaces-in-between and the undefined possibilities of expansion and too the postures in between the postures, with the awareness of us being on the ground, relating to the earth, as nature intented us to do – is the invitation to our own – true freedom.
‘Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose.’ – Vanda Scaravelli
…and I’d like to add (without wanting to sound disrespectful): the glory of a tradition or a teacher.
For me sharing this way of yoga is a practice in itself.
To make it accessible, when I teach my students (mentees and trainees) I intent to gradually lead them from a defined way of processing and practicing yoga (exploring fundamental yogic postures, breathing, myo-fascial alignment and adjustments) to a more refined (individualised, ‘advanced’) yoga practice that ultimately will be re-defined though the practitioners own choice of awareness and ability to open to a embodied way of moving and breathing. In this way even the beginning yogi can evolve safely and confidently on this personalised path of yoga.
For your next practices, I invite you to LET GO OF THE POSE AND BE, FEEL, EXPERIENCE YOURSELF AS A WHOLE – do this as often as possible. Then let it go and do it again.
** Note: My teacher Eve Grzybowski teaches me something similar, even though her lineage is the Iyengar tradition. Eve’s approach to this tradition differs.
If you want to find out more about fascia and yoga, join me for a workshop, training or retreat!