About Vanda Scaravelli
Vanda Scaravelli was born into an artistic, musical and intellectual family. Her father, Alberto Passigli was involved in creating the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino as well as the Orchestra Stabile. Her mother, Clara Corsi, was one of the first women graduates from an Italian university. Her early life was very much a musical one and many world class musicians such as Arturo Toscanini were frequent visitors to the family villa, Il Leccio.
Vanda Scaravelli was a concert standard pianist herself, and maintained her involvement in music throughout her life.
She married Luigi Scaravelli, a Professor of Philosophy, with whom she had two children. Tragically, Luigi died suddenly, shortly after World War II. It was around this time that she was introduced to BKS Iyengar by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Iyengar taught daily classes to Jiddu Krishnamurti, whom Scaravelli had known earlier in life through her father. Thus she took up yoga in her late 40s.
Some years later, Krishnamurti invited Desikachar to the Scaravelli’s Chalet Tannegg in Gstaad, where he taught them about the importance of the breath (pranayama), which became one of the principle themes in Vanda Scaravelli’s teaching. After this, Vanda Scaravelli continued to study with Iyengar and Desikachar for some years as she developed her approach towards the breath, gravity and the spine.
All photos of Vanda Scaravelli are with kind permission of Pinter & Martin, publishers of
“Awakening the Spine: Yoga for Health, Vitality and Energy”
Great friends with the philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Vanda Scaravelli shared his ideas about the dangers of organisations, concerned that creating a fixed technique would kill the spontaneity of the practice and reduce it to a series of instructions.
“Be careful, very careful about organisations. Yoga cannot be organised, must not be organised.” She never wanted to develop a school of "Scaravelli inspired yoga", rather she encouraged her students to research the work for themselves, and to develop their own individual approach to the yoga.
With the blessing of her own teacher, BKS Iyengar, she adapted techniques, and altered some of the positions so that they became more helpful to her (shortening the standing positions, changing the orientation of the hands for headstand), and simply began to practice in a way that made sense to her, and that was helpful on that day, with that particular breath.
When we practice, we have to approach each moment as if it is completely new, something never previously experienced. There is a tendency to step onto the yoga mat with expectations that today will feel like yesterday, that this or that position was easy then, and so it will be today.
However, a regular practice will reveal subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences and nuances. Each day, each breath, is fresh and new. Keeping our minds open, allowing ourselves to feel everything as if for the first time, will allow us time to deepen our awareness, to notice shifts and to find new ways of moving with ease and fluidity. It helps, too, to keep our practice alive, vital and inspiring.
Awakening the Spine: Yoga for Health, Vitality and Energy (Paperback)
B.K.S.Iyengar (forward), Vanda Scaravelli (Author)
This is a long awaited reprint of this classical work, revised by Vanda’s daughter and based on extensive notes left by the author enabling the book to be published for the first time as Vanda intended. Even if you have the first edition, it’s still worth investing in this one to see how Vanda’s ideas subtly changed. Superbly illustrated with iconic pictures of Vanda as well as inspiring photographs and images to set the tone. A book to treasure.