More About Karen
K A R E N
K I R K N E S S
Dr Karen Kirkness is the author of Spiral Bound: Integrated Anatomy for Yoga and founder of Meadowlark Yoga in Edinburgh, Scotland. Karen has recently achieved a Doctorate of Philosophy in Medical Sciences at Hull York Medical School. Her project focussed on using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to better understand the complexity that educators are facing in the UK medical curriculum. Karen is a committed movement educator passionate about facilitating healthy outcomes through guided self-practice. She holds an MFA & MSc in Human Anatomy from the University of Edinburgh.
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. My western Ashtanga teachers are David Keil, Sarah Hatcher, and Dena Kingsberg, who I will always consider my teachers even though my practice has fundamentally shifted. I have trained with Janet Balsaskas in her Active Birth method, and have recently studied with Dr. Sarah Duvall as a Pregnancy and Postpartum Exercise Specialist. I did my 200 Hour in 2003 with Paul Dallaghan at what was then known as Centered Yoga in Koh Samui, Thailand.
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. I learned a lot from other Ashtangis who were innovating the method and/or leaving it entirely due to age and injury, 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 professionalized 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.
The integration of Eastern and Western body concepts fuels my teaching of anatomy. I write about the helical, filamentous nature of tissue in my book, Spiral Bound: Integrated Anatomy for Yoga. This fascia-aware approach keeps me grounded in geometry and in this, I share common ground with my co-author and friend, Joanne Avison. You can get to know more about this collaborative exploration of fascia and its patterns via John Sharkey's dissection retreats to which we contribute as guest faculty. I have been commissioned by the Fascia Hub to produce a number of presentations steeped in embryology, spirality, fascia, and movement; find them here.
My favorite ways to explore anatomy are through movement, body painting, making models, and getting hands-on with kinaesthetic learning techniques. I seek connection with each student to help them discover how to joyfully progress in their practice while minimizing risk. I love giving (and receiving) yoga adjustments crafted through personal experience, research, and creative play. I deliver my Spiral Syllabus Ashtanga-based teacher training courses with my colleagues Amy Hughes and Nadine Watton with a focus on personal growth informed by critical dialogue, consent, defined scope of practice, and healthy working relationships.
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.
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. As a movement teacher, I see the body as a nonlinear matrix of spirals, and my work is centered 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 mostly from my home in the Scottish Borders, where I live with my family. We love being outdoors and keeping well through play, a moderate lifestyle, and connection to Nature. You can come practice with me in my home shala via my offering through Tweed Valley Wellness. I also offer mentorship and further CPD opportunities, all of which you can find on the link in bio, also "links" at the footer of this page.