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Awakening the Spine: Yoga for Health, Vitality and Energy Paperback – 6 Dec 2011
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A long awaited reprint of this classical work revised by Vanda's daughter and based on extensive notes left by the author allowing the book to be published for the first time as Vanda intended. Superbly illustrated with iconic pictures of Vanda as well as inspiring photographs and images to set the tone. A book to treasure. --Yoga & Health
About the Author
Though she came to yoga later in life, her subsequent 50-year practice and teachings have made a profound impact on hatha yoga. The daughter of artistic Italian parents, wife of a professor of philosophy, and an accomplished pianist, Vanda Scaravelli was accustomed throughout her life to meeting creative artists, intellectuals, and literati. The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti came to stay at the Scaravelli's villa overlooking Florence every year. When Scaravelli's husband died suddenly after World War II, she soon began spending summers with her children at a chalet in Switzerland, where she hosted Krishnamurti during his lectures there. B. K. S. Iyengar would come every morning to teach him yoga; he introduced Scaravelli, then in her 40s, to the ancient discipline, and "a new life came into my body." Thus began her ongoing exploration of what she called allegrezza, "the intelligent heart." From T. K. V. Desikachar she learned breath awareness; she later formulated her own approach to yoga (in which "you become intelligent and at the same time you are happy") and began to teach others. Her book Awakening the Spine (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995) became a classic. Since her death in 1999, at age 91, several teachers have carried on her work, most notably Toronto-based Esther Myers. "I practice because it is natural for me to practice," she told Myers in a 1996 YJ interview. "There is no other reason. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Creator of the Beginner Tai Chi (DVD)
In my opinion a better description of this book is to think of it as part autobiography and part musings by a person who has practised yoga throughout her life. With the end in sight she's reflecting and sharing her observations, lessons learned, philosophy and conclusions about life in general, all of which are framed in the context of yoga.
I would suggest that this book will resonate most with people who've been practising for a long time; have a regular self-practice; teachers and those training to be teachers; and people who have a more emotional and spiritual world view. If you don't tick at least one of these boxes (and preferably 2 or more) then I'd recommend you avoid it.
The book offers many excellent observations for those who are already adept an asana and can use the insights offered to refine and develop the subtleties of their practise. For example she writes "yoga will be accepted by the body when it is done without resistance. The wave along the spine is like the melody in music. When the beautiful flow of extension is in action, this wave will help the body find the right adjustment in the performance of the various movements". This is useful, but it's required more than 10 years of dedicated practise to have an appreciation for what the author is is alluding to here and to experiment with it.
I tend more to the rational and intellectual and found the author's style of writing rambling. There isn't a clear structure to the book and topics change with no warning or apparent logical connection between them. Whilst I'm glad I got it for the gems scattered amongst the pages, I did have to look quite carefully for them.
Not only that, but it is inspiring to see Vanda Scaravelli, in her eighties at the time, doing amazing backbends. She didn't start yoga till she was about forty - proving that it is never too late to start this amazing practise.
If you want a practical book on yoga, I would reccomend Godfrey Devereux's Dynamic Yoga and Erich Schiffmann's Yoga: the spirit and practice of moving into stillness. But Scaravelli's book is invaluable as an adjunct, and precisely because it is not about things like what to do with your legs in virabadrasana. It is informative without being esoteric. When she writes that to practice yoga you need a teacher she is telling no less than the truth. I have practised yoga for a few years and always return to this book. I also always give it to friends who are thinking of starting and they always love it.
Scaravelli died about eighteen months ago, but her students continue to teach her method which is based on using the power of gravity. She does introduce you to some asanas (poses) in the book; but that is not the point. The only way to learn yoga is to do it, but this book will refresh you and remind you why you are doing it. If the reason you are doing yoga is just so you can do the splits, maybe this is not the book for you. For everyone else: Let go of your ego and your goal-oriented mind and buy this book.