Allegrezza, the intelligent heart. In Esther Myers’ 1996 interview in Yoga Journal with Vanda Scaravelli, this is the description she uses of the way in which she learned to align herself to her yoga practice with ease. She says that she learned to come to her practice, and to life itself, without effort: “The way was to do it relaxing, without effort, with the wave, with movement, with breathing. All of this makes the practice of yoga very agreeable. You can reach the same things without strain, with allegrezza, and then that took over.” Allegrezza is a way of relaxing in our discovery of yoga, or of anything really. “You are not a slave to ideas. You become intelligent and at the same time you are happy,” says Scaravelli. Vanda Scaravelli knew a lot about allowing herself to be, about discovering ease in life that translated as a very long, healthful life. She wrote the book Awakening the Spine when she was 87, posing as the model for the beautiful backbends and other asanas that grace the pages of her book. Though she came to yoga late in life (in her 40’s), she taught yoga until she was 89; lived to be a strong and healthy 91. Her life was a testament to her teaching, of which the essence was to unlearn our mind’s desire to push, push, push through yoga poses, ever trying to make our body become something; rather, she taught that these poses are meant to be done with ease and that if we learn to move and flow with gravity that our body will unfold happily into yoga. I am entranced by this woman and by all that her life and teaching have contributed to the practice of yoga. Even in death, she is a mentor to us all. What more could we want from our life, than to be strong, healthy beings moving through life with ease, for as many years as we are here? To discover our bodies own intelligence, the natural suppleness of our spine and hips, to surrender to gravity and discover lightness–isn’t this the richest life we could discover? In Awakening the Spine Scaravelli writes, “There is a way of doing yoga poses that we call ‘asanas’ without the slightest effort. Movement is the song of the body. Yes, the body has its own song from which the movement of dancing arises spontaneously. In other words, the liberation of the upper part of the body (the head, neck, arms, trunk) produced by the acceptance of gravity in the lower part of the body is the origin of lightness, and dancing is its expression. This song, if you care to listen to it, is beauty….We sing when we are happy and the body goes with it like waves in the sea.”

To read more about Vanda Scaravelli see