Yoga Medicine

Aug 7th, 2015

An international yoga teacher, author and health & wellness expert based in Los Angeles, Tiffany Cruikshank is known as a teacher’s teacher. She was previously the Acupuncturist & Yoga Teacher at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon. She has been featured in various video and print ads including ads for Nike, Lululemon, KiraGrace, Liquido Active and Yogi Tea; the graced the cover of various yoga magazines. Asana talked to Tiffany about her journey and her ability to fuse the two worlds of eastern and western medicine together and apply it to the practice of yoga.

Asana: Not many people outside India start their yoga practice at a young age. How did you discover yoga as a teenager? What attracted you to the practice?
Tiffany: When I started practicing, there were very few studios at all in the US and none where I lived. I remember seeing a little wooden sign with the word YOGA and a phone number written on it somewhere near my house. It seemed really interesting to me; one day I remembered the number and called.

I was always really athletic and so the physicality initially drew me in but it was all the other layers of the practice that kept me interested over the past couple of decades.

Asana: Do you consider dance and competitive sports help with your yoga practice; and vice versa?

Tiffany: I think those things definitely helped when I was younger and obsessed with the fancy poses. Nowadays I practise yoga as more of a physical therapy, a mental therapy and a spiritual practice so how deep I go into the postures isn’t really that important. So I don’t think my practice is very much influenced by this at all any more other than my love for movement. My most important practice nowadays though is my meditation. For me, it’s where the real gem of the practice is.

Asana: How do you see your yoga practice evolve over the years?
Tiffany: My practice has evolved so many times over just in the past 20 some years. I can only imagine how many more times it will evolve over the course of my lifetime. In my teens & 20’s, I was obsessed with the poses and it was more of a mindful sport for me. I had a bad injury at the end of my 20’s and I’m sure if I wasn’t doing yoga, I would have been abusing my body with some other sport.

But I learned a lot from this practice too, pushing my body and practising more of the tapas and the dedication of the practice, waking up to practice at 4am many days. But my injury though taught me even more. For me, it was a huge eye opener and it pushed me to practice differently and to start incorporating my love of anatomy and orthopedics and so much of what I use with my patients, which eventually years later became Yoga Medicine.

Asana: Which is your favourite style: vinyasa flow or hatha? How often do you practice?
Tiffany: I’ve always loved movement, it feeds me and nourishes me in a way nothing else does. So I’ve mostly preferred vinyasa but recently I’ve become more intrigued by a more hatha style practice as a way to refine my practice and move in a more therapeutic way. But I think I may always love both. I meditate daily, its like water for me; so many parts of my body & spirit thrive on it.

My asana practice is usually 6 days a week but I’ve become much more flexible in what that looks like, adapting it in a way that nourishes me in its own way every day.

Yoga belongs in our medical world and in order to do that I believe that teachers need to understand both the Eastern and Western perspectives.

Asana: What is your teaching philosophy – “education, experience, results”??
Tiffany: Yes, this is my philosophy for training teachers. With Yoga Medicine, we strive to bring teacher trainings to the next level. I really believe that yoga belongs in our medical world and in order to do that I believe that teachers need to understand both the eastern and western perspectives.

Our training is meant to be like medical school for yoga teachers with over 1,000 hours of training. We also train our teachers to do evaluations and to use their students as case studies so that they can learn even more from their experience with their students and use it as a way to investigate and research as well.

We believe that this deeper level of training along with their experience working with doctors and healthcare providers helps us to optimise the results with our students.

Asana: Do you incorporate your sport medicine and anatomic focus into your teaching?
Tiffany: Absolutely! The fusion of these two worlds is my passion. For me, it’s all about being able to respect and utilize the ancient tradition of yoga and its many lineages and at the same time to inform it with what we know now about modern anatomy and physiology and illness. That’s where I believe we have the most potential within the medical system.

Asana: How effective do you consider teaching online? Would you prefer to lead classes in person?
Tiffany: I love teaching online. It allows me to spread what I love with a much larger audience and to be able to inspire teachers and students all over the world.

Obviously, if you have an injury or something you are working on you really need a teacher, you can work with in person but the internet is such a great resource for the everyday yogi and I believe there is incredible medicine there as well.

Of course, nothing can replace the spirit and energy of a community of students gathered together to practise in person.

Asana: Do you notice any difference in yoga practice around the world? Where is your favourite teaching location?
Tiffany: Every place I visit has its own idiosyncrasies but there’s also a very common thread that you can feel globally, especially with the internet now.

Back in the 90’s, it was a lot different, you’d travel and find completely different stuff everywhere you went. But now we’re so connected, that’s all changed.

Asana: When you are neither travelling nor teaching, what is your typical day?
Tiffany: I always start with my morning meditation, then usually I do my practice in morning, followed by a smoothie. After that, well, you’d be surprised at how much time I spend on my computer.

When I’m home, I usually work 10am-6pm on my computer, in meetings, on Skype calls, writing articles or teacher training curriculum, sometimes at photo shoots or developing new stuff for our Yoga Medicine community. I have about 8-10 people who work for Yoga Medicine and another 13+ teachers who work in our assistantship program so I stay pretty busy at home managing the business.

Then I love to cook a nice dinner and relax in the evenings with either a book or a movie.

Asana: How do you relax yourself? What are your favourite pastimes?
Tiffany: I love to read, never light stuff though. I love to learn, that feeds me. People never understand that but for me learning is relaxing. I love cooking but simple, healthy stuff mostly.

I live in LA so the weather is usually pretty nice so I love to barbeque. I love music, movies and fashion. And of course more than anything I love just relaxing or going for a walk with my man and my dog. I’m pretty simple really.

Asana: Do you consider holistic and Chinese medicine make your body stronger? Has this knowledge changed your lifestyle?
Tiffany: Absolutely. The basic concept in Chinese Medicine is similar to Ayurveda in that when the body is in balance all the internal systems function much more efficiently.

I’m a huge fan of nutrition, herbal medicine and all the simple things we can do to optimise our health and to heal our bodies, it’s what spurred by first book- Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life about 8 years ago.

Asana: These days many talk about detoxification. In Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life, you set out a 30-day detox program. Is this good for anyone?
Tiffany: The book was originally created as a resource for my patients that evolved into a book that anyone can use to take their health into their own hands.

Of course, there are always exceptions and you should always get a doctors opinion first if you have health issues you are working on.

Asana: Do you consider yoga transformed your life? Where do you hope yoga take you next?
Tiffany: Yoga continues to change my life on many levels on a daily basis. It’s my physical therapy, my mental health and my soul food all in one!

Asana: Are you planning to release another book? Or DVD?
Tiffany: I have another book that I am finishing now that will launch next year with Random House. It’s a follow up to my first book looking at meditation specifically.

After working with thousands of patients over the last dozen years, one thing I found more than anything that changed my patients lives and health was creating a regular meditation practice.

Nowadays, we’re seeing this more and more in research, but us yogis have known that for a long time.

Asana: Is India Seva Project ongoing? What do you wish to achieve?
Tiffany: Yes, our Seva Project is ongoing. It’s a project we will continue to fund going forward. I feel very passionate about this project. To me, as a woman it’s our instinct to protect and provide for our families and the thought of having to sell your body to do that is an unbearable thought.

As an educated woman, I know the empowerment that comes from an education and to me it’s a powerful gift. One of the many gifts of our yoga practice is also the empowerment of the practice both physically and mentally so I see this education initiative as a direct extension of that.

Our goal is to empower and inspire each one of these children to be leaders in their communities and the incredible transformation that comes from this work in the younger generation building our future.

Tiffany is special – a yoga teacher who understands anatomy, a Chinese Medicine expert who understands athletes and sports. Through our conversation, she shows her passion and channels positive energy.

To read the full article please download our Asana Journal App or purchase Issue 152 August 2015

Asana Journal

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