Yoga has given me a deeper knowledge of who I am. As a highly mental person (a naturally equipped jnana yogini), I found that getting back to my body really helps to quiet the chattering in my mind. Practicing asanas feels like a moving meditation, where I’m fully present inside myself and in tune with God. Energy moves out from my heart and belly instead of my head.
Yet, in my experience, Yoga transcends all that is material (even the body). Practicing takes me to a higher place of peace and tranquility. Just being able to move freely, flowing from one posture to the next, puts me in an altered state of consciousness. All my obsessions, aggravations, and worries diminish. It is as if yoga clears away all my unhealthy perceptions and attachments. Awareness of my breath, along with greater focus in the moment, helps to evoke greater levels of compassion, acceptance, and unconditional love for myself. In turn, this awakens the ability to have empathy for others and hold space for the human conditions we all face.
My first memory was when I was about three years old. My mom and dad did yoga with a local teacher and would come home and do postures. I remember copying my parents as they practiced. My mom noticed my natural flexibility and enrolled me in gymnastics and dance. I continued my lessons for eight years and then moved to other interests, like violin. I went back to dance and started doing sculpture in high school. When I finally came back to yoga, at Sonoma State University, I was ready to commit to living it fully.
Eleanor Criswell-Hanna was my first yoga teacher and her class was called The Psychology of Yoga. Trained in Somatics, Eleanor has a strong background in the neurophysiological effects of asana practice. I was greatly influenced by her approach of using yoga as a healing modality. For the following two years, I was asked to assist in her classes, taught by Cynthia Lindway (Kripalu Certified Teacher and HIV/AIDS Counselor) and Shelli Wirz (Sivananda Certified Teacher and Massage Therapist). That two year internship was mind-blowing.
After graduation, I headed to the White Lotus Foundation to study with Ganga White and Tracey Rich. It was at White Lotus that I received my certification. Ganga has a rich array of training and passed his learnings and philosophies on to us. His teaching style is mainly influenced by B.K.S. Iyengar, J. Krishnamurti, and K. Pattabhi Jois. Tracey Rich has a strong background in dance and movement. Her grace and power touched me profoundly. She has been a role-model for me in many ways.
I am always studying yoga, healing and mystic practices. My most recent initiation is in study the Vijana Bhairava Tantra, which started in 2011 with Dr Lorin Roche (http://www.radiancesutras.com). It is important for all students (including yoga teachers) to have a good teacher (or two) to inspire and bring new concepts to practice. I have had some wonderful experiences with all my teachers but my inner wisdom is still the guiding force behind my yoga practice. This, I believe, shines through in my own teaching.
Quotes from Vanda Scaravelli:
“When the chest is opening, the mind is opening, and we feel emotionally shiny, and stability comes.”
(matsyasana or fish pose)
“Nobody can go to heaven unless the foundation is firm.”
(tadasana or mountain pose)
“The still waters of a lake reflect the beauty around it. When the mind is still, the beauty of the Self is reflected.”
(hamsasana or swan pose)