I started practicing yoga years ago, after making a change from tai chi, and received training and certification in Iyengar yoga. I taught yoga in the Iyengar tradition for many years.
For the past the past number of years I have been studying with Diane Long, a lifetime devotee to the teaching and yoga of Vanda Scaravelli. Diane was Vanda’s student for over 23 years, until Vanda’s death at the age of 91. Scaravelli’s influential book, “Awakening the Spine,” provided a précis for a new way of working through gravity and breath, and within the natural abilities and function of the body and spine. But the book only hints at the practice that comes from the work.
As very human yogis, we usually pursue goals in asana with a martial determination and with fevered obsession. If those goals/asana are not met or achieved in short order they are often abandoned – our practice dies, and we move on to the next fitness fad, or we continue to strain, push, contort, yank, wrench, and do violence in order to reach the elusive, and ill-defined destination.
Deep down, we admit that strain, contortion, and exhaustion are things we impose on our bodies; they are not what our bodies would choose for themselves. We are dictators.
To bring stress and to structurally defy is not really yoga; it is merely defiance and the undermining of the body’s authority. We ultimately enslave the flesh in the quest for its emancipation.
A Scaravelli-inspired approach to yoga helps us resist the urge to force and intimidate the body into textbook ‘yogic’ asana. We need the mind and ego to get out of the way, to help instead of to bully – and we must observe. What happens when we release expectations and discard old and unhealthy habits?
Vanda Scaravelli’s and Diane Long’s way is to strive less to get what is really needed from a yoga practice. The approach to working asks us to do only less, to do fewer things. It is altogether difficult work, because of its simplicity: it is a deep challenge to our creativity and our imagination.
Please come join my students and me in an exploration of a yoga inspired by Vanda Scaravelli and by Diane Long — come have a listen to what your body is saying.