More About Karen

K A R E N 
K I R K N E S S

My yoga journey started with Ashtanga in the late ’90s when I landed on the mat for the first time in college at the University of Central Florida. Between then and 2017, I undertook 7 trips to India to study with the Jois family and other senior Ashtanga teachers.

Over the decades, I was also a voracious endurance cyclist and used yoga to heal from injuries resulting from what I now think of as an addiction to intensity. Somehow, I emerged from the fire only slightly scathed. I learned a lot from other Ashtangis who were innovating the method and/or leaving it entirely, and over the years pursued a deeper understanding of bodily constraints via anatomy study. Fortunately, that process helped me transition into more sustainable physicality.

Years after moving to Scotland to get my MFA, I studied classical Human Anatomy at Edinburgh University for my second Master’s degree, an MSc in Human Anatomy. The experience of studying classical anatomy as a mature postgraduate student in the dissection lab was spiritual, academic, and deeply humbling. 

Along the way, I have professionalised as a yoga teacher and community maker. I founded Meadowlark Yoga based on my work as a freelance yoga teacher in Edinburgh since 2003. My personal practice has evolved into a daily meditation on healing and discovery, and I share this journey with others in my work as a movement teacher.

My continuing study of anatomy as a PhD candidate in medical sciences continually reshapes my grasp of what it means to have a body in terms of gross and subtle anatomy. Inspired by the Sāṃkhya philosophy of yoga, my understanding of human anatomy fits in the framework of cosmology and I see the body as nothing separate from the rest of the Universe. I was first inspired to learn the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in Mysore with M.A. Jayashree, and now consider sounding, functional breath-movement, and pranayama to be my main personal practice.

The integration of eastern and western body concepts fuels my teaching of anatomy and I see biological tissues now through the lens of filamentous structure. This fascia-aware approach keeps me grounded in geometry and in this, I share common ground with my co-author and friend, Joanne Avison. My favourite ways to explore anatomy are through movement, body painting, making models, and getting hands-on with kinaesthetic learning techniques. My first book for Handspring Publishing is in production for its UK launch in August 2021.

My teaching practice is about facilitation and empowerment. I seek connection with each student to help them discover how to joyfully progress in their practice while minimising risk. I love giving (and receiving) yoga adjustments crafted through personal experience, research, and creative play. I deliver my Avid Yogi Ashtanga-based teacher training courses with my colleagues Amy Hughes and Nadine Watton with a focus around pedagogy informed by critical dialogue, consent, defined scope of practice, and healthy working relationships.

As a movement teacher, I see the body as a nonlinear matrix of spirals and my work is centred on the spiral as a natural motif. My contribution to the yoga anatomy conversation is in the form of what I call the Five Filaments, a fascia-aware system for codifying biomotion into practical terms.

I work with functional movement themes in rotation seated in the spectrum of soft tissues as informed by my extensive study of the body in research and practice. I teach from my home in the Scottish Borders, where I live with my husband, our two rambunctious kids both aged under 5, ten chickens and three muscovy ducks.