Scaravelli inspired Yoga
Scaravelli inspired Yoga is a subtle, yet transformational approach to Yoga and movement, which is guided by principles now found in modern biomechanics (the way the body is designed to move) and biotensegrity (how the body functions as an integrated network of tensile structures). Thanks to its gentle nature, it is suitable for most people, especially those who are drawn to a deeper, more internal practice, as well as those with pre-existing imbalances or restrictions.
Scaravelli inspired Yoga is so called because it is not a structured system of predefined movements or poses. Its creator, Vanda Scaravelli, was an Italian classical musician who had received personal tuition from B.K.S. Iyengar for some years, and when left to her own devices, found a way of working with the body which was in total harmony with the way the body is designed to move, breathe and be. She was also influenced by her friendship with J. Krishnamurti, who was an advocate of self-knowledge through internal enquiry, rather than somebody else’s ideas or prescriptions.
In this approach to Yoga, the aim is to find the path of least resistance, i.e. finding a way of moving that is as effortless and restful as possible. Movements are allowed to emerge from a place of support and stability (the ground, as well as the deeper, skeletal muscles), so that the more external muscles can provide mobility and flow. The Asanas (Yoga poses), which are more fluid in form and constantly adapted to meet individual needs, are not considered an aim in themselves, but provide a varied framework in which to observe and explore the body’s response to gravity and breath.
Vanda Scaravelli’s approach was extremely creative and unconventional, borrowing from nature and how other animals instinctively move. She had the utmost respect for her own and her students’ body and was unique at the time in the way she allowed each person’s natural inclinations to guide their practice. There is no forcing or imposition in this from of Yoga, on the contrary the intrinsic intelligence of the body is not only allowed, but actively encouraged to come to the surface and inform our movements.
The three main components of Scaravelli inspired Yoga
The human body has evolved and developed in response to the pull of gravity. The more we yield to this gravitational pull, instead of resisting or pulling away from it, the more the body can expand and extend into its surrounding space with minimal effort. In an upright position this means that, as the lower part of the body surrenders to and finds stability in the ground, the upper part is able to rebound up and find lightness and freedom. This anti-gravity reflex results in an opening of the spine at waist level, which after an initial shortening, unwinds upwards by its own volition.
As we create lightness and freedom in the body, we create lightness and freedom in the breath (and vice versa). Freeing the breath means restoring its natural flow by allowing it to unfold at its own pace and in its own time. When our breathing is restricted or impaired, as it often is in modern times, we need to create the right conditions for it to flow freely, rather than trying to manipulate or control it. To this end, moment to moment awareness of our breathing and how it is affected by our posture and movements are key.
The spine is the central point of focus in Scaravelli inspired Yoga, as freedom of movement is believed to be dependent upon the freedom of the spine. The spine is the body’s primary mover and its involuntary, primal action becomes possible once we have removed all restrictions surrounding it. Then the deeper, smaller spinal muscles - which are constantly being coaxed to activate in this form of Yoga - become more engaged, resulting in a more fluid and refined motion, which is often described as an ascending wave (from the waist up). For this wave to spontaneously occur, all pushing and pulling needs to come to an end.
What to expect from a Scaravelli inspired Yoga session
As this approach to Yoga is very fluid, in the sense that it is not based on specific rules or sets of postures, each teacher will bring their own experience and interpretation to the Yoga mat - and daily life. The common denominator is likely to be a deep, internal attention to how each individual body stands, sits, moves in relation to gravity, so that cumulative patterns of unnecessary tension can be acknowledged and gradually dissolved. In other words, the focus is on undoing rather than doing.
The level of internal awareness that is fostered in Scaravelli inspired Yoga makes it a very mindful, meditative practice. Each movement or posture tends to be explored in detail, from the point of view of internal sensations and responses, so that an attitude of listening to the body is developed over time. Quality of movement is prioritised over quantity, so the amount of postures/movements explored during one lesson might be smaller than in other forms of Yoga.
Most Scaravelli inspired teachers will focus on embodying the anatomical aspects of the practice, some by using smaller, subtler movements, some by using adapted Asanas. Some will teach in a more structured manner, some in a more fluid, playful, intuitive one. Or a combination of both. As the intention is not to override the body’s instinct, their approach will not be mechanistic, but - just like the body - creative and in constant flux. Much consideration will be given to each student’s individual needs, which is the reason why a lot of Scaravelli inspired classes tend to be small and non- prescriptive.
Effects and benefits of Scaravelli inspired Yoga
The aim of this form of Yoga is to bring the body-mind back to a more natural state, free of conditioning and therefore free of the unhelpful physical and mental patterns which we might have unwittingly accumulated over the years. In other words, the intention is to restore natural movement patterns, posture, breathing and nervous system regulation. The more specific effects and benefits that might be noticed are:
- Less muscular tension, so that daily activities or other forms of bodywork, including sports and exercise, can be performed with less effort and less risk of injury
- More freedom of movement, i.e. better mobility and less restrictions. This is similar to flexibility, but without the fragmentation that often occurs when different parts of the body are pulled away from each other
- A decrease in (or complete cessation of) pre-existing pain, as the body becomes more integrated and mobile. As Scaravelli inspired Yoga is centred around the spine, many teachers and students find it particularly helpful in addressing back pain
- The ability to physically and mentally slow down, resulting in a sense of restfulness and ease throughout the body’s tissues
- Being fully present and therefore appreciative of each moment, thanks to the mindfulness aspect of the practice
- The ability to activate the ‘rest and digest’ (relaxation) part of the nervous system, which can lead to a reduction in stress and anxiety