Diane’s teaching is rich and challenging. She was taught by Vanda Scaravelli and insists on deep principals with determination. She also exhibits deep care and charisma. She is American but came to live in Italy some 30 year ago to be with Vanda. She has been living in Toffia for decades, and adds words of encouragement in Italian ‘belissima!, che bello’.
Toffia is stuck about 40 years ago, and is so very special to visit. There is 1 bar, 1 coffee shop, 1 small supermarket (4 isles, one of which is devoted to pasta, and another has a wide selection of seeds to plant), a tabac and a theatre. Yes, no restaurant, and instead a theatre, here art and growth are more important than food. It’s a place of yogis, artists, film makers and farmers. It is a shard of cliff top land with curving streets, cobbles and cats. The sun sets over fields, hills and small settlements, and nature was constantly startling me – a leaf hanging in mid air, reflections on a river, persimmons dripping from a tree.
Diane always has a sparkle in her eye and a sassy attitude. She is unequivocally firm, and yet also kind. She is one of the most determined and charismatic people Ive met. One day we were working on a balance and she got angry as I was ‘fighting her’ by not holding onto the wall. I was just exploring my own body with gravity and movement, but for sure, it was her way or no way. Another day I went up into wheel and discovered I had a deep fear in my hands and arms, to which she soothed me and helped me through it. Lunch was ‘bring a dish’ so we always had a surprising and enjoyable lunch, with stories from Diane about teachers like Vanda, Krishnamurti, Iyengar and Desikachar, all of whom she had met and some of them many, many times. When she tells a story she holds court and sparkles.
My journey there was one of fun and trust. In Rome we arrived 8.52pm and miraculously I made it to the last train at 9.12pm. It took a bit of trust and yoga breathing as I imagined being stuck in Rome with no accommodation. I gently reminded myself – if it works out, it works out, if it doesn’t work out, something else will work out. I was extra tired as I had bought duty free alcohol as a gift for a friend, but in Geneva, although duty free, it didn’t pass security – so I drank it. A humorous solution. For those of you who don’t know I enjoy large doses of vertigo. See the picture of wobbly ladders and a hole? That’s the way to my accomodation, so even getting inside was a feat of endurance!
I visited a Theravada monastery, called Santacittarama. I went twice, such a beautiful tranquil place, the design detail is truly sublime. Both times the meditation or question and answer session were led by a gentle monk wearing a one piece of cloth outfit twisted and made from an almost translucent light, terracotta cotton. The outfit is both simple with a strong sense of humility, and also a deep sensuality in the twists and drape of the fabric. An Englishman, speaking in Italian about his Thai order of Buddism. I understood little with my ears, but much with my heart and eyes.
It was the wonderful Judy Cameron’s big birthday and I was honoured to celebrate with her. Judy is one of my earliest and most loved teachers. She was my tutor some 20 years ago when I studied with YogaBirth. Now she is a fellow tutor with Yoga Scotland, something I would never have imagined then. Judy is the picture of yoga. Her body has youth and vitality and a soul with wisdom, care and strength. This picture is her with her beloved husband Roy. I also met some wonderful yogis and some of the artists on retreat…. cyanotype flower shadows, broad stroke blunt work, that when placed with others became water reflections of the river.
Toffia isn’t for the feint hearted, it’s hot, the mosquitos bite, you have to cook everything yourself, the yoga is radical, there’s no public transport and the precipitous edges are enough to set of those with vertigo. So for me Toffia is always a soft home and a challenge.
Do ask me more if you’re interested, maybe we could go together another year?
For more on Diane’s teaching…. watch this space!