By Phil Catalfo
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 (Harper San Francisco, 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 YJinterview. “There is no other reason.