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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Jun 22, 2008

Spiral to the Heart of the Beloved

“The great path of Yoga is a spiral to the Heart of the practitioner from the Heart of the Beloved. A Yoga practice, sustained over a long time with devotion (abhyasa), can become a devotional spiral from the Heart of the practitioner back to the Heart of the Beloved.”

Inner and Outer Spiral are two of the primary 5 Principles of Alignment used in Anusara Yoga. The anatomy and kinesiology of these spirals is elegant and very specific. But first, to place Inner and Outer Spiral in the larger context of the 5 principles, here’s a synopsis: In every pose, the first principle is to Open, to soften and expand with Inner Brightness. Then comes the second principle, Muscular Energy, which balances and provides a riverbank for the expansive quality of the first principle. Muscular Energy creates the integration and stability necessary to effectively engage Inner and Outer Spiral, principles 3 & 4. And finally comes the expansiveness and freedom of Organic Energy.

Learning to work and play with the engagement of the spirals in Asana helps to make Yoga truly a practice of aligning with the way the whole of the universe works. Sounds like a grand claim, I know. In fact, I used to be embarrassed to use that sort of language – I’d mellow it down, thinking it was just, well, too grandiose to say “Universal Principles of Alignment”. Gradually I’ve come to understand the principles more deeply in both theory and practice, and what I see is that they truly are ways of aligning with all of Life – that’s why they are called “Universal Principles of Alignment.” Anusara Yoga is simply and completely aligned with and working with the same principles that are found universally in nature and spirituality.

Like the Spiral Pattern..............

The spiral is probably the oldest symbol of human spirituality. Spiral petroglyphs have been found on every continent in the world. The Hopis have a name for God that is “The Great Spiral”. The Divine – or the Great Spiral, if you will - has imprinted itself on every aspect of our embodied life, from our DNA to our fingerprints to the spiral pattern of our hair growth.

In nature, the spiral dynamic is found everywhere, from the spiral helix shape of our DNA structure to the spiral shape of the Galaxy. The spirals in nature are governed by the Golden Number – sometimes called the Divine number (the Fibonacci sequence) and are therefore called expressions of “the Golden Spiral.”

In movement, again, the spiral is universal. The movement that animates our lives is infused with spiral patterns, from the baby’s spiral journey out of the birth canal, to the spiral pattern that the sun makes every three months in its travels.

In the round of the seasons, as we move towards Winter Solstice, we are part of an Inner Spiraling towards towards the deep Source, what Brian Swimme calls "The All Nourishing Abyss," from which life arises and back to which all life returns.

Winter Solstice itself marks the birth of form – Word becoming Flesh.

From Winter Solstice, as we move towards Summer Solstice, we are part of an Outer Spiraling towards radiance and fullness of Life as the “Great Spiral” unfolds itself into form and individual expression.

Summer Solstice marks the zenith of the unfoldment of Spirit into Matter. It is the maximum Outer Spiral of the One to a “Multitude of forms most wondrous” (Darwin). All of these forms most wondrous have a spiral encoding. All are an exhale of the Divine into form. And all will be spiraled back to the Divine and then spiraled back out again to become Life and inhaled back in again to the One. This pulsing and spiraling dance is sometimes called the Work, or the Great Process of Divine evolution. And sometimes called Lila, or God’s play.

Spiral metaphor linked to Hindu Mythology brings forth the goddesses Kali and Laksmi. The center of the Spiral galaxy is a black hole, the cosmological counterpart to the Winter Solstice – the place to which all the “forms most wondrous” must make their inward spiral of return. This Black Hole is the energy of Kali!
The beauty of the Milky Way and it’s radiance is the outer Spiral and is akin to Summer solstice. This maximum outward spiral of bright life is Shri or the energy of the Goddess Laksmi!

Anusara’s “Universal Principles” give us an elegant system of alignment and action builds an ever greater capacity align with and participate with the Divine. With the Big Picture as inspiration, the precise anatomical and kinesiological details of Inner and Outer Spiral are the fascinating details of how to participate more fully in God’s work and play.

Inner Spiral in the lower body begins at the mound of the big toe and spirals upward in a bright pathway, activating and spiraling the upper thighs inward, broadening the pelvis and continuing its expanding spiraling path to the back waistline and kidney area – the “Back Body” - the part of us that is the more of an embodiment of “Universal will” than is the Front Body.

Outer Spiral begins at the back waistline and Kidney area, and spirals back down towards the feet, firming the hips, engaging tailbone action, narrowing the pelvis, firming and externally rotating the outer edges of the legs and rooting the outer edges of the feet. All of these Outer Spiral actions move us more into the “Front Body”, the part of us that is an embodiment of Individual Will. Outer Spiral engages the the steadying and strengthening action of tailbone and core and firms the the large muscles of hips and buttocks necessary to walk our walk in life and be strong as Individual expressions of the Universal.

The great path of Yoga is a spiral to the Heart of the practitioner from the Heart of the Beloved. A Yoga practice, sustained over a long time with devotion (abhyasa), can become a devotional spiral from the Heart of the practitioner back to the Heart of the Beloved.


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