is the binding force that holds the many worlds together and with
its intensity also attracts us to each other? Can we call it gravity,
energy, Love? To re-establish contact with our body is to be in
contact with nature is to be in contact with the Cosmos. Balance
is restored, space is around us and that tremendous power arising
from the earth in unison with these universal forces, will become
part of us,"
words spoken so eloquently by Vanda Scaravelli.
studied individually with Iyengar and Desikachar and developed her
own way of working with gravity and the breath to free the spine's
powerful natural flexibility.
been studying yoga with Scaravelli influenced yoga teachers (some
her direct pupils) for the past five years and they have all guided
me in the understanding of this approach to yoga. But it wasn't
until just recently when the opportunity unfolded to work with two
direct pupils of Scaravelli, Diane Long and Sophy Hoare. Their approach
in this style of yoga has influenced my understanding and made accessible
an avenue that I had no idea existed.
the end of last year I began working on a regular basis with a teacher
named Sophy Hoare, a direct pupil of Scaravelli. She has opened
up my understanding in this way of yoga, and it has really struck
a chord within me.
a word I feel the biggest message about this approach to yoga is
'attitude'. It's all about being awake and paying attention tour
body: listening to the body's inner intelligence and then letting
the 'inner knowing' take over, guiding one... it knows what to do.
It's like a spark that ignites. It is coming in unison with the
body, re-establishing contact. Things begin to 'kick in' and one
can catch a glimpse of the endless possibilities and knowledge that
the body instinctively holds within. We all have the capability-
it's just about opening oneself up to the opportunity.
that connection opens up a whole new inner confidence, enabling
one to recoginise that the capability lies within. The ability is
innate. One can be given the guidelines but the destination is found
on one's own.
Long (a student of Scaravelli for over 25 years) was extraordinary
to watch as she moved into postures as instinctively as an animal.
She appeared almost 'creature like' in her approach to yoga. Through
her, I realized that the only way to understand this approach was
to allow my instincts to take over. The feet or hands become very
strong and feeling alive, sensing the gravity from the earth. Within
the breath, one 'makes space' for the spine to be free and move
in ways one didn't think were possible. I refer to Vanda's quote
'to re-establish contact-space is around us and that tremendous
power arising from the earth in unison with these universal forces,
will become part of us'. Diane used the example of practicing yoga
in a very natural instinctive way, just like a flower grows from
the earth. The attitude is all important. It's like seeing yourself
as a natural growing being that, when given the chance to be free,
can respond with amazing clarity. Diane explained, "It's so important
to keep it simple and clear so work can become 'play' in expressing
movement in any posture was really extraordinary and it was so obvious
that her body was able to express the message. A fundamental approach
to yoga is that all poses are ultimately practiced in the same way.
It's really a very ingenuous, natural way of working. It doesn't
matter if you're in Dog pose or Headstand, the same principles apply.
Diane made a perfect analogy when she described this approach to
yoga as 'a natural expression.' "Think of your posture like a burp
or a yawn, it's strong and forceful and then it feels really good!'
my sessions with Diane my practice has been much more intense with
regards to my focus and attitude. I have been using my feet and
hands strongly. Using my body intensely causes me to be more intelligent
within the pose. Let's use my back bend as an example... I begin
by spending a lot of time preparing myself. I then use my feet strongly
as if the ball of my foot is being sucked into the floor. My pelvis
begins to lift off the floor, as it is light and free. My thighs
slip into the hip sockets. My hands are positioned on the ground
next to my ears ready to allow my chest to move freely. As my chest
opens, my arms follow, supporting me (my arms feel as though they
are coming out of my shoulder blades almost like wings). I focus
on my breath which creates space up and through my spine. I keep
my chest and tummy soft. The backbend feels very natural, effortless,
but strong. It has become a much more natural feeling instead of
an effort. I come down and rest, staying alert and focused on the
positive responses which my body has instinctively created. Being
still, watching, waiting and listening to what I feel is such an
important part of the practice.
aspect of Diane's teaching was to give attention and focus on the
smallest little point of a muscle, or a tiny space such as in the
middle of your shoulder blades, a place that we use so regularly
in our daily tasks without paying it any particular attention. It
is an amazing feeling to be able to release tensions from those
minute, very important places. You don't think you feel anything
and then later you realise how much your tension has eased. It feels
as though you've been working from the inside out.
with Sophy Hoare on a regular basis has been such a treat. She has
given me 'basics' to take away each lesson and pay attention to
during my daily practice. One of the most basic poses she began
working on with me is standing in Tadasana. Again, the important
message of 'attitude' and with that clear, focused attention, creating
space in the body becomes very apparent. I remember to focus on
the natural, instinctive rhythm of my body, trusting it to guide
me. Bearing this in mind, I'll give you an example of how I practise.
I begin something like this...I am focused and ask my mind to begin
with awareness on my feet,next my legs feel as though they slide
up into my hip joints. I once remarked to Sophy, that it feels as
though I were a turtle gathering in it's arms and legs into it's
shell. This drawing in of the extremities gives the body space and
the limbs responding to their natural instinct then seem to follow
along quite happily.The back of my knees open up, the back of my
waist is level and open, and with attention I wait for the breath
to make space in my body. There is lightness. A wave like feeling
is apparent. I feel space, width inside me, shoulders slipping softly
into shoulder joints and my head resting proudly on top of my spine.
I focus on my breath and my body feels in harmony. I feel strong,
secure and very peaceful.
with Sophy, I feel as though I can begin to sense the layers of
tension in my body, layers that went deeper than I had every realized
existed. Only patience and time can help to dissolve them. This
is a slow process of 'undoing the body' so it can respond, readjusting
itself to harmony. Sophy said, "As we reach closer to the core,
there is a magic in the process. It's so healing and therapeutic
if we stay close with our attention". The effects for me in practicing
Yoga in this way are a feeling of increased energy and a very peaceful
confidence in my daily routine. Another very tangible effect of
Yoga for me has been the disappearance of my eczema. Five years
ago when I hadn't discovered Yoga and all it's benefits, I lived
with chronic eczema. Over the past four years, my eczema has become
almost non -existent. My steroid cream has been thrown away. I now
refer to my eczema as my magic mirror. When it starts to flare up,
the most helpful remedy is a good dose of Yoga!
made such a good analogy to me one day when we were discussing how
Yoga can change and how it becomes a continuous journey of self-discovery.
This example really made sense to me and I should like to share
it with you. In Yoga, when we are working deeply and moving further,
we might look at instructions or images as signposts. When taking
a trip in the car, for example heading up north, we look for the
road sign to Oxford. Once we pass Oxford, we don't follow that signpost
anymore, we disregard it and now we look for another sign (such
as York), to take use further north along our journey. It's really
the same with Yoga. When you begin to work deeply, the context changes
and broadens. Naturally, the signposts change and something which
initially helped us may no longer be needed. What we might have
clung onto to get us where we are is now discarded, and we look
to the new and constantly changing path on our journey.
what I'm trying to say is although it is human nature to put things
in an instruction book and list steps one, two, and three to help
us understand, for me Yoga isn't that straightforward. It's like
trying to put something in a box and expect it to grow. To grow
one needs nurturing, love and guidance. But, most importantly, one
needs space to be free and expand. Then one really develops something
intrinsically natural to oneself, something that we can marvel at...
our own remarkable ability to discover how to grow.
Irvine is a nurse, freelance health writer, and has just released
a video, Yoga for Healthy Mother and Child. The
video and additional articles written by the author are available