When I began practicing yoga, in my late 20s, my body was stiff and uncomfortable, having had scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine) since birth. A ten year career as a theatre costume maker, often hunched over a cutting table or sewing machine had compounded the imbalances in my posture. Tension in my body was creating limitation with breathing and that felt stressful. My body was crying out for love – something had to be done!
Conventional excercise or stretching had often felt invasive, painful or simply not interesting enough to keep me coming back but from my first yoga class in 1996 I was fascinated and immediately hooked. A couple of years later I stumbled across a cluster of teachers who were sharing the teachings of Vanda Scaravelli and her fresh approach to yoga. Vanda’s book ‘Awakening The Spine’ was published in 1991 and it’s influence continues to spread around the world today.
At first I didn’t feel like I was ‘doing’ very much in these classes but there was something that felt very right for me, something that my body was profoundly grateful for; tension was dissolving at a deeper level.
Working with my teachers I was amazed to discover what my body could feel like. They helped me find internal spaciousness and freedom that I hadn’t experienced before. This expansion was beautifully melded with the sense of a true home-coming. I knew I had found my yoga. This ‘home’ that I now live in continues to suprise me with discoveries of hidden passageways and rooms that open up unexpectedly, on many levels.
Inspired by the slow revolution that was taking place in my own body, I trained in London with Vanda Scaravelli’s direct students, Sophy Hoare, John Stirk & Pete Blackaby, qualifying to teach in 2002. We were fortunate also to be taught by guest teachers including Vanda’s closest long-term students – Diane Long, Sandra Sabatini and Elizabeth Pauncz.
Diane’s teaching was something else! She had been Vanda’s main student for 23 years. Often her words made no sense to me but what she elicited in my movement was incredible – she was talking directly to the natural intelligence and grace of the body in a way that it understood and loved.
Since starting teaching in 2002, I continued to study with Sophy almost monthly for around 15 years. I’ve made countless trips around the UK to work with Diane, many annual visits to her at her home in Italy and an intensive in India. In 2011 I met Christine Borg, an extraordinary teacher (Edinburgh) who I have studied with often and who has really helped me develop and make the practice my own.
I have also discovered the joys of studying Vedic Chanting with Sarah Waterfield, here in Bristol for many years. Practicing this form of chanting, in Sanskrit, of mantras and passages from the Vedas and Upanishads is a joyous, direct, physical and illuminating experience of yoga philosophy. The chants often celebrate qualities such as faith and courage which can feel strengthening and supportive. I am especially drawn to the chants that honour the wealth of nature, both within and around us.
From the moment I began practicing yoga I wanted to share this work with others. Besides my own teaching, I have hosted dozens of workshops and intensives in Bristol with Sophy, Diane and Christine and other teachers and feel honoured to help continue the legacy of Vanda Scaravelli.
“What a privilege it is to realize the beauty of living inside this body” Diane Long
“Caroline has a very kind approach and an in-depth understanding of the kind of yoga we do. I love watching her demonstrating poses because her movements always come from within and they unfold in a very animal like way. The way she adjusts is also incredible. She is a very special and gifted teacher. I feel lucky to be taught by her.” Kasia
There is a particular quality of attention we are aiming to bring to the body and that is when the practice really begins, when our interest is drawn towards the subtle interior movements and connections.
We’re not trying to get the body to conform to an external model of what we think yoga is or what an asana should look like. We are more interested in finding space and freedom – the asana comes from that.
This approach is subtle, yet profound. It cannot be reduced to a system or method. It demands that the practitioner develops an interest and attentiveness in their own body. For me there is real creativity in that.
The freedom, the ease and the sense of becoming more comfortable gradually make their way into deeper places inside. It is a process that is sustainable as we age…it can only get richer and deeper with practice and time.
Exploring and feeling internal connections invite the whole body to take part in the movements we’re making. The more integrated the movement, the less effort there is. From this point we can start to feel the connectedness of everything in life, not just within our own body.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything else in the Universe.” John Muir
“Caroline has a way of working that simply and clearly brings the body back into wholeness and in that process of integration aches and pains can disappear or lessen and there is a feeling of utter joy that comes through” Dominique