When Movement becomes Meditation: The Legacy of Vanda Scaravelli

by Nan Wishner

I first learned of Vanda Scaravelli when someone showed me a photo of her in Light on Yoga demonstrating Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) with B. K. S. Iyengar balancing in Mayurasana (peacock pose) on her back. I was surprised to see a woman pictured in an otherwise traditional yoga text, and even more surprised that she was wearing a striped, two-piece bathing suit. Although I did not know then how important Vanda's teaching would become to me, in retrospect, I see how that image captures her anomalous position in the world of contemporary yoga ...
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An Interview with Esther Myers

Esther Myers has been practising yoga for over 30 years, including 10 years with Vanda Scaravelli who was and continues to be her primary inspiration. She is the author of Yoga and You; Hands-on Assists: A Guide for Yoga Teachers, co-author of The Ground, the Breath and the Spine. She has produced two videos: Vanda Scaravelli: On Yoga and Gentle Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors. Esther Myers Yoga Studio opened in Toronto in 1979.

Esther Myers

FOYT Space: The question of practice seems to be a good place to start. What are your thoughts about personal ...
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Coming home to my body, to myself

by Esther Myers

Thirty years of practice have taught me that yoga offers no guarantees. It has not guaranteed me health, a beautiful body or longevity.

In 1994 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy along with the removal of some lymph nodes from my right armpit. That was followed by a hysterectomy in 1999 for removal of an ovarian tumor. In March of 2001, I was diagnosed with spread of the breast cancer into my abdominal and pleural cavities. The tumor in my abdomen is sizable and both tumors have adhesions, ...
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Three Interviews with Esther Myers

The Feminine Critique
Most ancient scriptures were written for and by men. Nischala Joy Devi and Esther Myers question their relevance for modern women.

By tradition, only the males of India’s upper castes could study the sacred texts. These were written expressly for Brahmins and kings, whose duty required that they learn scripture and practice yoga. A woman’s duty, regardless of caste, was to tend to her family. Nowadays, however, things have changed, and Western women have embraced the sacred traditions of India. How can modern, liberated yoginis relate to the obvious male slant in yogic classics ...
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Grounding, Breathing, Lengthening with Monica Voss

Monica Voss, who lives and teaches in Toronto, recently conducted a weekend workshop at White Iris Yoga in Evanston. Three principles sum up the essence of Monica’s hatha yoga philosophy: 1) ground yourself, 2) breathe deeply, and 3) lengthen your spine. The rest of the posture will fall into place. However, most of us don’t know how to feel our spines. We can’t see them. They have become “anonymous”, and we need to bring them back to life, says Monica.

A workshop with Monica begins with a long, deep relaxation so students can experience an awareness of ...
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Journey through Breast Cancer

by Esther Myers

A yoga teacher reflects on her passage through the illness millions of women face each year.

My doctor’s words were simple: “There’s something there, and I think it should come out.” At that moment, my world started to crumble.

My mother had died of metastatic breast cancer at the age of 54. I knew I was high risk. On my 47th birthday, when the thought crossed my mind that I was about the same age as mother had been when she developed cancer, I had congratulated myself on another milestone ...
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Applying Vanda’s Ideas in Your Practice

by Esther Myers

One of the wonderful gifts of Vanda Scaravelli's work is its simplicity. The three basic principles-the breath, gravity, and wave-remain the same throughout practice, no matter what your level. Once you clearly understand these principles, myriad details of alignment and correct action fall into place easily. Questions like: 'What do I do in this pose?" simply dissolve as the principles become clearer and clearer. "What do I need to do to get into this pose?" changes to "What do I need to undo?"

To integrate this approach into your practice, start with ...
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Awakening the Spine

Esther Myers on Vanda Scaravelli

Still strong and supple at 88, Vanda Scaravelli continues to practise using gravity and the breath to ride the body's own wave.

I've watched Vanda Scaravelli do backbends for over 10 years, and each time I felt I was seeing a backbend for the first time. I watched and listened as this powerful, slight woman in her mid-80s planted her enormous feet on the floor and spoke about growing roots. Then, with a rhythmical, waving motion she would arch over and back, all the while talking about growing wings and ...
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