Vanda Scaravelli (born Florence, January 15, 1908- 1999) took up yoga late in life and went on to become one of the discipline's leading practitioners. She studied with BKS Iyengar and TKV Desikachar, writing her book, Awakening the Spine in 1991. She died in 1999 at the age of 91.
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 Pablo Casals, Andres Segovia and Arturo Toscanini were frequent visitors to the family villa, Il Leccio.
Scaravelli was a concert standard pianist herself and maintained her involvement in music throughout her life.
She married Luigi Scaravelli, a Professor of Philosophy at the Universities of Rome and Pisa with whom she had two children. Luigi Scaravelli died suddenly twelve years after WW2, in 1957. Around this time she was introduced to BKS Iyengar by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin in Gstaad, Switzerland. Hosted by the Scaravelli family, Iyengar taught daily classes to Krishnamurti, whom Vanda had known earlier in life through her father. Thus she took up yoga late in life.
Some years later Krishnamurti invited Desikachar to the Scaravelli's Chalet Tannegg in Gstaad, where he taught them about the importance of the breath or pranayama, which became one of the principle themes in Scaravelli's teaching. After this Scaravelli continued to study with Iyengar and Desikachar for some years as she was developing her ideas surrounding the breath, gravity and the spine.
Vanda Scaravelli's key observation was that the human spine has a natural division (at the fifth lumbar vertebrae) which allows it to move in opposite ways simultaneously: from the waist downwards pulled by gravity and from the waist upwards, through the top of the head, lifting us upwards effortlessly.
“Awakening the Spine” by Vanda Scaravelli, 1991, Harper Collins.
“Yoga and You” by Esther Myers, 1997, Shambala Publications.
“Breath: The Essence of Yoga” by Sandra Sabatini, 2000, Harper Collins.
"See How Yoga Feels" by Su Sareen.