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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).

Nov 16, 2015


Inner and Outer Spiral are two of the primary Principles of Alignment used in Anusara Yoga. The details of these spirals are elegant and  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, soften, expand with inner  brightness and ground. 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 and allows for the the expansiveness and freedom that follows when its time to R-E-A-C-H with 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 - 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 Deep Source, what Brian Swimme calls "The All Nourishing Abyss," from which life arises and back to which all life returns.

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 this outer spiraling Spirit into a “Multitude of forms most wondrous” (Darwin). All of these forms most wondrous have a spiral encoding. All are an exhale of God(dess) / Mystery into Embodiment. 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.

The Spiral energy is encoded into mythology. For example, the story of the goddesses Kali and Laksmi. The center of the Spiral galaxy is a black hole - the energy of Kali - the cosmological counterpart to the Winter Solstice and the place to which all the “forms most wondrous” must make their inward spiral of return. 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!

Using the spirals in Asana give us an elegant way to  align with and participate with the Divine.
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 and towards back body, 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, engaging the outer rotators or the hips, activating 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  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.

Yoga is a Gift that has been spiraled into the Heart of the practitioner from the Heart of the Beloved. A Yoga practice, sustained over a long time with devotion (abhyasa),is a devotional outer spiral that R-E-A-C-H-E-S from the Heart of the practitioner back to the Heart of the Beloved.

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