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Month: February 2018

How Tiffany Cruikshank Makes Self-Care Part of Her Day

Tiffany Cruikshank takes Yoga Glo through a day in her life. Learn what her yoga practice looks like, when she meditates, and how she makes self-care a priority.

A Day in the Life of Tiffany Cruikshank

Hi, I’m Tiffany Cruikshank and I’m a YogaGlo instructor, teaching everything from energizing flow sequences and yoga for athletes to meditation and restorative practices!  In addition to YogaGlo, I have a Chinese Medicine practice (now The Athletes Point, I used to have a practice at the Nike headquarters and before that with the incredible Frank Lipman. MD in NYC as well as a clinic in Portland ) where I specialize in sports medicine & orthopedics (and most people don’t know this but I also have a secondary specialty in women’s health & fertility). I founded and run (with my fantastic team) Yoga Medicine which is where I spend most of my time these days. I train teachers, work with pro athletes, collaborate with doctors of all sorts and speak at conferences around the world.

A Day in the Life

Today, I’m sharing a sneak peek into my day and how self-love shows up in habits throughout my everyday life. For me self-love is all about the day-to-day work we do to cultivate self-awareness and the self-care practices we include in our routine which are so critical to keep us feeling nourished and balanced.

I was inspired to share some simple, accessible ways to make self-love a part of your day-to-day routine with my new YogaGlo program: Strength and Stamina Basics.  In our modern sedentary lives, movement can be so therapeutic, this is why I created these short, energizing practices to easily fit into your day to help you show your body and mind a little love even if you’re short on time.

I’m excited to share my “day in the life” and all the little ways that self-love shows up in my routine. Share how you schedule a little me time into your day in the comments below!

The short and sweet of my self-care routine starts with a meditation, then a smoothie to give me fuel for the day and a yoga practice to suit my needs for the day.  I spend most of my time on my computer when I’m home so I try to get up and move around often and cook some quick healthy foods. I end my day with a short restorative practice to nourish my body & mind and transition into some time to connect with those I love.  Here are the details:

Waking Up

7:00 AM – First off, as I roll out of bed, I do my morning meditation. Regardless of how busy the day ahead is, this helps me set the tone for the day. Usually 20 minutes.  Here’s one of my favorites for self-compassion.

7:30 AM – It’s time for what I like to call my “everything but the kitchen sink” smoothie. The ingredients really depend on whether I need a kick of energy or some stress relief but some of the things I love to throw in include: a high quality protein powder without any extra ingredients or sweeteners (I like to change it up: hemp, pea, rice, whey protein, etc), collagen powder, glutamine powder, vitamin C, brain octane oil or coconut oil, turmeric, ashwagandha, hemp seeds, probiotics, glutathione powder, vitamin D (especially now that I live in Seattle), etc.  I usually pick 2-4 each day and rotate. I respond to any urgent texts or emails but mostly I spend some time with my fiance while we sip smoothies and tea together and prepare for our day.

Mid-Morning

8:00 AM – Time for some myofascial work!  Great for so many things including connective tissue hydration, cellular communication, immune function and it helps prepare me for my yoga practice.  Similar to yoga there are so many different techniques to use depending on your body’s needs (scar tissue work, mobility, recovery, nervous system communication, more efficient movement, pain and so much more…).  I’ve used myofascial techniques with my patients for over 14 years now and find it to be a critical part of their self-care. I recently created a myofascial ball with Rad Roller made specifically for tissue recovery that launches soon as well.

8:30 AM – Today calls for some movement! My practice changes daily based on how my body is feeling and I’ve learned over time that each day is different.  What I love about yoga is that it has the capacity to be specific to our needs at that moment. I like to have a focus since there are so many therapeutic aspects of the practice that I find beneficial for my own self-care: movement, circulation, coordination, body/ self-awareness, balance, mobility, strength, precision, stability, mindful attention, breathwork, meditation, mental focus, interoception, compassion, subtle body awareness, emotional intelligence, mental perspective… and so much more.

When I’m not traveling for work I spend most of my days working on my computer from home so I often start my day off with some sort of movement-based practice. The details of that depend on the day. Because I travel so much I also like to do some movement in the morning to help match the normal cortisol/circadian rhythms through the day. Some days this even turns into more of an exercise or interval based practice but either way I like to get my heart rate up. My practice today: Tune Out the Noise!

Mid-Day

9:30 AM – 1:00 PM – Work until lunch.  I spend a lot of time running Yoga Medicine and our non-profits, managing our employees & contractors, responding to emails, creating new classes and programs, writing new teacher training content.  I recently finished writing a new manual on the nervous system & restorative yoga for our advanced Yoga Medicine teacher trainings.

11:00 AM – I try to take a 10-minute movement break and grab a snack mid-morning.  I have a mini trampoline next to my desk that I jump on when I just need to move. 🙂

1:00 PM – Lunch! There’s something so nourishing about taking the time to prep your own food. Even if it’s a simple meal that takes a few minutes, it feels great to take a break and fuel your body with healthy, simple foods. I usually keep it quick and simple for lunch.  Usually some sort of veggies, maybe a grain if I have something ready and some sort of protein. Toss in some olive oil and vinegar (I have so many different vinegars I love, right now my favorite is a honey white balsamic vinegar I found), sea salt, maybe some avocado or pine nuts.  Voila!

Afternoon

2:00 PM – 6:00 PM – Work, work, work, work, work, work.

3:00 PM – Time for a quick movement break. I love a quick 5-minute back bending practice on a chair to keep me focused and productive – check out Chair Rejuvenator.

Evening

6:00 PM – Time for a quick restorative pose! I like to do a restorative pose as a way to bookend my day, turn off my brain and start to wind down from a busy work day.  This helps me combat stress, maintain a healthy cortisol/circadian rhythm with all my travel (my adrenals take the brunt of this long-term so I try to stay on top of it)  and stay balanced mentally & physically. I find this part of the practice the hardest for people (including myself) to prioritize in our schedules. Personally, I find it to be such an important tool for my overall health, especially for the things you can’t necessarily see or feel like physiological health & emotional health.

6:30 PM – Cook, rest, read, and reset for tomorrow. When I’m home I love cooking for myself and my fiance.  I try to turn off my work brain and spend time making memories.

Wrap Up

Making time to learn new things about yoga and wellness is an act of self-care that I try to weave into my routine as much as possible.

Thanks for joining me today. I’d love to hear the ways that you approach self-care in your life. Share how you make self-love a habit in the comments below!

Click here to view Tiffany’s bio, programs and classes on YogaGlo!

Organic Fact’s Interview of Tiffany Cruikshank

Organic Facts’ interview of Tiffany Cruikshank discusses Tiffany’s life, Yoga Medicine, and the power of the Seva Project.

Yoga Medicine By Tiffany Cruikshank

From battling depression as a teen to emerging as an international yoga teacher, author, holistic health practitioner, acupuncturist, and sports medicine expert, Tiffany Cruikshank has come a long way in her professional career. She is the founder of Yoga Medicine. Yoga Medicine teaches yoga through her uniquely crafted methodology which involves a blend of the Eastern and Western medicine. Her approach has helped thousands of yogis around the world see their practice in a new light. Her innovative thinking and dedication to the practice have healed more than 25000 patients.

Bridging Yoga And Medicine

Practicing yoga in her early teens not only gave her way out of depression but also helped her channel her energy and positivity to healing others too! Her methodology is a culmination of her life’s work. It evolved from many years of study and experience working with patients and students over the past 22 years. She saw the need for yoga in the medical world and decided to construct a bridge between yoga and the medical world to allow the doctors wanting to use yoga with their patients to do so.

“I created Yoga Medicine as a transparent training program that allows providers and patients to find a teacher trained in both traditional yoga practices as well as western concepts of anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology to provide a more therapeutic practice individualized to the student’s needs,” says Tiffany.

Yoga Medicine comprises over 7,000 teachers around the world. It is a diverse group with many teachers who have been teaching for 10 to 20 years or more. “I’m most proud of our community of teachers. There’s nothing I love more than seeing the impact our teachers are making out there!” exclaimed Tiffany.

Changing Lives In Different Ways

Tiffany thinks it is critical to give back to the world without expecting anything back.  For that reason, she started a non-profit project called Yoga Medicine Seva Foundation. The Seva Foundation rescues girls in India from trafficking and allows them to choose a vocational training that will, as a result, allow them to provide for themselves and their families for a lifetime. “You would never guess what they’ve been through! These girls are some of the happiest I have had the pleasure of knowing,” Tiffany adds. Her second non-profit work is more of a pet project because of her quest for endless knowledge. Yoga Medicine Research Institute will be conducting their first research on the effects of yoga on hip pain.

“Hearing random stories from strangers I run into who have taken my classes or read my books or who had the opportunity to work with me gives me an undefined pleasure. There are so many incredible people all over the world in this industry. An industry that has such a profound impact on so many people’s quality of life. I feel so grateful to have a job I really believe in and feel so passionate about,” concludes Tiffany.

About Tiffany Cruikshank

Tiffany Cruikshank is an internationally renowned yoga instructor, founder of Yoga Medicine, and the author of Meditate Your Weight. Based in Seattle, Cruikshank teaches regularly for YogaGlo, and travels extensively around the world.  She has graced the cover of over a dozen magazines including Prevention, Yoga Journal, Om Yoga Magazine, Mantra Yoga & Health Magazine, Origin Magazine, Thrive Magazine.  She has been a contributor to many major publications like The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, Forbes, Dr. Oz, Self, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Glamor, Shape, Fitness, MindBodyGreen, to name a few.

Read on Organic Facts here.

Preparing a Yoga Workshop after Teacher Training

Jessica Perry, Yoga Medicine 500HR Trainee shares some insight on putting together your first yoga workshop after finishing your teacher training. Learn how to incorporate new concepts into your practice, and deliver a workshop to convey these experiences to your students. That is where the real gem and crux lies — how to transfer what you know into a meaningful, educational, and accessible workshop.

Getting Started is the Hardest Part

I began preparing for my first workshop on low back pain and how yoga may help relieve and prevent it. I was nervous and a little overwhelmed in planning the workshop since it was my first time. What if no one came to my workshop? Do I really know anything? Would I be able to help anyone? These thoughts are normal for me in just about anything I do. I fear wasting someone else’s time. I fear not being able to help. While I have those thoughts and fears in almost everything I do, the key to getting over them is to start. Getting started is the hardest part but the most rewarding once you get past that initial stage.

A few months prior, I had brought up my interest to teach a workshop to my fellow yoga medicine teacher, Shannon Stephens at Soul Yoga. Shannon graciously took me under her wing to help me decide on a topic and guiding me down the path in planning. Originally, I wanted to discuss everything about the back that I learned through the spine module. I was excited to share all the knowledge I had gained. I also wanted to test myself to see what I actually know. Shannon helped steer me in the right direction to focus on one area. That area would be low back pain which is a common complaint we hear from yoga students, friends, and family.

Planning the Content

In order to focus and get started in planning, I went to a local coffee shop. I sat down with my Yoga Medicine Spine Module manual, my notebook full of notes from that module, and a blank document opened on my computer. I typed out my ideas for the workshop and then started to organize them in a fluid way. It is similar to planning a vinyasa flow class: Decide on a theme or peak pose and break it down on how to get there.

What muscles are stretched? Which ones are shortened? What poses help with those muscles being lengthened or shortened? In this case it was what poses will help strengthen the muscles around the low back and why would that help with and prevent back pain. I planned the workshop by putting myself in the shoes of an attendee. What would I want to know? How do I learn? How do my friends learn? Can I make this accessible to a beginner? Will it be interesting for an experienced practitioner?

Laying out the Workshop

In the end, I broke the workshop into four main sections. The introduction was about who I am and what the workshop was about. After the introduction, I spoke of body awareness and why breath is important. The next part of the workshop was the anatomy of the low back. I kept the anatomy short and sweet in order to help reinforce the information in the yoga sequence. Next, we discussed a few common causes of back pain. Finally, I led everyone through a yoga sequence to tie it all together.

During the yoga sequence, I emphasized why a particular pose was important in regards to preventing or helping low back pain by referencing the anatomy and common causes we discussed. I pointed out which muscles the pose shortened/lengthened, and explained how that relates to low back pain. I referenced the common causes section and spoke about why it is important to be mindful of our muscles in a pose.

Reflecting on the Experience

Overall, I felt relieved, grateful, and a little stronger mentally after the workshop. I got over my fear of getting in front of a group of people and discussing things other than just putting them through poses. I got to take the time to explain more about why a pose can help us and how to avoid hurting ourselves. In class, we sometimes do not have time to go over that detail in depth. After the workshop I had several students tell me they enjoyed the workshop and requested I teach more. When I heard those words it made the fear disappear. I am glad I got started. I’m looking forward to translating the information I have and will learn through Yoga Medicine modules into workshops to serve my community.

In summary, what I have learned through this experience is do not be afraid to step into the role of teaching a workshop. The hardest part is getting started! Let your fears motivate you and guide you into what you want to deliver to your community. Remember you have the knowledge and it is there! Be sure to have a main focus for your workshop, break it up into pieces in order for others to follow and take away something, and reinforce the topic in your yoga sequence. I wish you a fun and successful experience in planning and delivering your first workshop!

Yoga and Meditation for Creativity: 3 Methods

 for Spirituality & Health shares three methods of practicing yoga and meditation for creativity.  Yoga Medicine Teacher Dr. Rashmi Bismark weighs in on meditation and creativity.

3 Ways Your Body Can Help Bolster Creativity

Getting in tune with your body can be a powerful tool in accessing your creativity.

Feeling uninspired, or just looking for your next big idea? You could get quite the creativity boost by trying these three practices.

Look to your own sky.

Rashmi Bismark, M.D., a preventative medicine physician and Yoga Medicine instructor, noted that there have been a slew of studies touting the health benefits of meditation on health, but few about its effects on creativity.

A small 2012 study found that open-monitoring style of meditation—when you have a receptive, open awareness compared to focusing on an item or thought—was better at improving creativity.

Bismark recommends a form of open-monitoring meditation known as The Sky of Awareness. To do it, settle into a comfortable seated posture and imagine your mind as expansive as the sky. Take in environmental sounds and sensations in your body. When it comes to thoughts, emotions and images, remember that they change like weather patterns.

“Instead of ignoring them or pushing them aside, see if it is possible to open attention to all of them coming and going, along with sounds and sensations,” she says. “Allow for the unfolding of life just as it is, remembering the breath is always available as an anchor when you need it.”

Kate Kerr, a Canada-based mindfulness consultant, said mindfulness is key to cultivating creativity.

“Mindfulness is about having a curious, open attitude to your present moment experiences, whatever they are,” she said. If we can cultivate a beginner’s mind—seeing things from a new perspective—it can increase our skill in seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes and innovative thinking.”

Breathe Differently

Not only is Nadi Shodhara Breathing (also known as alternate nostril breathing) a great way to literally clear your head of congestion, but it helps people calm down to reach a state of creativity.

To begin, close your eyes and fold down your index and middle fingers of your right hand. Put your thumb on your right nostril and other fingers gently resting on your left nostril or just relaxed. Breathe in through your left nostril.  Then close your left nostril using your ring and pinky finger and release the right nostril, exhaling through it. Inhale through your right nostril. Close your right nostril and release closure of your left. Exhale through your left nostril, and then inhale from it to begin a new round. Breathe normally afterward.

“You can use this breath for several minutes or until you feel relaxed,” says Crystal M. Hill, a yoga teacher, and coach at Pura Vida Yoga in Wisconsin.

Send Love to Your Second Chakra

Got some time to move around? In her Yoga for Creativity course, Mary Beth LaRue focuses on activating the body’s second chakra because it governs creativity. Located near our hips and sacrum, having this energy in balance can free our minds for optimal creativity. Poses such as Low Lunge, Half Monkey god and Reclining Bound Angle can loosen up the hips.

Whether it’s a breathing exercise, repeating a mantra or practicing mindfulness, it looks like those types of activities are key to cultivating creativity. After all, don’t your best creative moments occur when you’re not forcing your mind to be creative? Sometimes, making space for creativity to occur is all we need.

“When we intentionally pay attention to present moment experience with kind curiosity and patience, we create the space to connect with our innate strengths, including creativity,” Bismark says. “When we can bring a loving mindful presence to whatever it is we are doing, we naturally create the conditions necessary for creativity to flow through us.”

Read on Spritiuality & Health here.

The Basics of Meditation: Getting Started

In this article by PsyCom online, two senior Yoga Medicine® teachers, Dr. Valerie Knopik and Dr. Rashmi Bismark, discuss the meditation basics, why we do it, which practice might be best for you, and a few simple meditations.

The Basics of Meditation

What is Meditation?

If you’ve been confused in the past by meditation, you’re not alone. Meditation is hard to define.  Generally, it consists of focusing your attention as a way to calm the mind. Breathing is a common focal point in many different types of meditation. Because staying focused on your breath removes distractions, worries, and restlessness from the mind.

While the practice of meditation dates back centuries, it has recently gained a newfound popularity. Why the sudden popularity boom? Meditation is accessible to everyone and can be tailored to accommodate a variety of time constraints, demanding responsibilities, physical disabilities, and lack of space.

Meditation is a healthy form of self-care and both experts and meditation enthusiasts say it’s a valuable antidote to the fast pace of our technology-driven culture

Yael Shy, author of What Now? Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond (Parallax, 2017), further explains, “Meditation is not just about helping us calm down and “de-stress” although it can do both of those things. Meditation helps us to see the contents of our minds and hearts, to understand the way we construct the world and the pain we carry around with greater clarity, compassion, and acceptance. In this way, meditation has the power to transform our relationship to ourselves, to others, and the world around us.”

Why Meditate?

Meditation has a wide array of health benefits, both mental and physical.

Studies have shown that meditation can reduce symptoms of anxiety.1 Another study found meditation may encourage the growth of new brain neurons by forming new connections between existing neurons. This study concluded that these neurological effects suggest meditation is an effective treatment for anxiety and may even help prevent anxiety from developing.2

Valerie Knopik, PhD – Director of Research for Yoga Medicine, the Miller Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue University says, “when we practice mind-body techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and focused intention tasks, we influence brain activity in regions that are involved in reducing psychological stress and increasing the parasympathetic response.  This can, over time and with practice, ease anxiety and increase mood.”

However, there is no current research demonstrating the efficacy of meditation in improving clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders.

It’s okay to be skeptical. Rashmi Bismark, MD, MPH, a Yoga Medicine instructor and Preventative Medicine Physician, explains, “Though it is easy to get carried away on the bandwagon, like every potentially helpful intervention, mindfulness and meditation must be taken into context with the myriad of other interdependent factors influencing our health and wellbeing.  The growing list of research studies on contemplative practices are promising, but to make confident statements about impact, more rigorous trials are needed incorporating larger, more diverse patient populations and comparing the effects of meditation against other active control interventions.”

What Type of Meditation Is Right for Me?

There are dozens of types of meditation that use different techniques, focus points and even sounds. Here are a few:

Zen Meditation

This type of meditation, also referred to as zazen, is practiced in a seated position with eyes closed. This meditation technique emphasizes correct posture—sitting with one’s back straight and head centered.

Guided Visualization:

This meditation technique is popular in the athletic community. With Guided Visualization, you imagine a desired outcome. For example, a basketball player might use Guided Visualization in a game by closing their eyes before taking a foul shot, imagining the ball swishing through the net. To extend guided visualization, you can imagine how you will feel once you accomplish your vision.

Transcendental Meditation:

Transcendental meditation (TM) is a very popular meditation technique that encourages use of a mantra and is typically practiced twice per day. Consider learning more about transcendental meditation with acclaimed meditation teacher Bob Roth’s new book, Strength in Stillness.

Mindfulness Meditation:

This meditation technique helps you to fully experience the present by hyper-focusing on various tasks in your day. It’s necessary to turn off all distractions including phones, the TV, computer, etc. When you are fully focused on the task at hand and how you feel in relation to it, without letting your mind wander to separate worries (or refocusing your attention when it does wander), then you are being mindful. The goal is to have the “focus” become natural, so that you don’t have to be redirecting your attention back to the food on your plate or whichever task at hand you are completing, so that you feel fully in tune with what you are doing. Learn more about mindfulness here.

Meditation Exercises to Try Now

Consider developing a mantra, “Thank you for being here,” “I appreciate this time, I feel calm,” or something similar, to repeat as you meditate. It can be as long or as short as you want. The idea is that you can use this mantra while meditating—whether you are walking, in the shower, or sitting with your eyes closed—as a starting point for meditation. It might feel strange to repeat these words to yourself, but the repetition allows you to focus on a pattern and you might end up connecting to the words more than you expect. You can use this mantra during any type of meditation.

Shower Meditation

We know what you’re thinking…what in the world is shower meditation? Consider: when taking a shower; you’re alone, water in the shower creates its own meditation music, and it’s something you have to do every day, anyway. It’s a great alternative if it feels unnatural or impossible to sit somewhere with your eyes closed.

To begin a shower meditation: Notice how the water feels on your skin, in your hair. Listen to the sounds of the water droplets. As you clean, apply soap to areas that feel tense and rub into them. Send your breath to those areas. How does the water feel running over your head, down your neck? Breathe deep into the scents around you. When you are finished showering, take a step back from the water before turning it off. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Breathe into your feet, widening the space between your toes to firmly plant your feet into the ground. Consider repeating a mantra that readies you for your day.

Walking Meditation

Walking meditations are an excellent way to begin meditating if you feel like you have too much energy to focus during a seated meditation. You’re able to keep your body moving and take in your surroundings. Consider leaving your phone and iPod at home or in your car. If you want your phone on you, consider turning it onto airplane mode so that you aren’t distracted, or try out a meditation app. Try a walking meditation for just five minutes or for your entire hour-long walk

Before you begin your walk, close your eyes for a moment and breathe deeply, preparing yourself to let go of outside worries. You are on this walk, and everything can wait until you are finished. Walk at a comfortable pace. How does your body feel moving? How do your feet feel planting into the ground on each step? Consider rolling your neck gently from side to side, letting go of tension in your shoulders, your face.

If the mood strikes you, stop walking at a scenic location and take in your surroundings. What’s in the distance? What is directly in front of you? How does the sky look? Are you hearing birds, water? If you start worrying about your to-do list or other things you should be doing, try repeating a mantra. At the end of your walk, wiggle your fingers. Roll your head back and take a look at the sky. Has it changed since your walk began? Consider thanking yourself for the time and movement.

10 Count Meditation

Dr. Knopik shares her favorite meditation technique: “I personally love the 10-count meditation, which is simple and effective. You will count each in and out breath until you reach 10 and then start over again.  You may lose count, but it’s so easy to just start over and start to train your brain to not wander off.  Meditation for me is grounding and literally slows down time (for me).  Even when you think you don’t have time to do it, sitting for just 5 minutes, can be a reset button for the whole day.”

Meditation might feel like a waste of two or ten or forty minutes, but the truth is that giving yourself this time to breathe and to center yourself will likely help you be more clear-headed and productive during the day. Experiment with the different techniques until you figure out what works for you.

Click here to view the original article on PsyCom online.

How to Start a Daily Mindfulness Practice

Megan Kearney for Yoga Digest shares why mindfulness is so key, a story about living in the moment, and how to cultivate a mindfulness practice of your own.

Stress, Struggle & Strawberries: Inquire Within To Be Mindful With All

Eat the strawberry. That’s the thought that sticks out in my mind about that moment. And how tender it was, when just a couple hours before I was a hot-headed raging mom-preneur mess, juggling multiple hats and two kids under three.

The strawberry was part of a story that Buddhist monk (and fellow mom) Pema Chodron retells in her book The Wisdom of No Escape. The story begins with a woman chased by tigers to a cliff. In an effort to escape, the woman scrambles down a vine; but as she is descending, she looks down to see more tigers at the foot of the vine. “Tigers above, tigers below” she writes. At another glance to the top, the woman notices a mouse who is steadily chewing through the vine. Suddenly, she sees something large and red in her peripheral vision. It’s a strawberry. And in that “damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment,” she stops and eats the strawberry.

Tigers Above, Tigers Below

I read this at a time when I was struggling as a wife, stay-at-home mom, with my identity as a person and the desire to make an impact in my community. My fear was that I was doing everything so badly in the struggle that the impact was going to be a negative one if I didn’t pull myself together. Tigers above. Tigers below.

In every moment, I was pushing, striving and working. There was no present. I had ditched my steady meditation practice three years prior upon my daughter’s birth; and now, time on my beautiful silk cushion was a stomach tossing, better-things-to-do, threatening thought. Even when I could sit, I couldn’t keep my eyes closed or even softly opened. My eyes just sprung open every chance. Like a deer in headlights, my gaze seemed fixated on my future.

Meditation & Mindfulness

At the suggestion of my Ayurvedic coach, I changed some things in my diet and started a practice of yoga nidra. Yoga nidra is a form of formal meditation and open monitoring. Often called “yogic sleep,” it is considered one of the “deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness.” I tried a guided version daily and for the first couple of weeks, I cried each time as I wrote back to my teacher, “I am falling asleep!!” To which she replied, “Be patient. You must need it.”

So I kept on. I also started reading anything by meditation guru and MBSR founder Jon Kabat-Zinn. I started to realize that I need to apply mindfulness daily. Like sprinkles to a cake – softly and spread throughout. And it worked.

The reason? There are formal meditation practices that consist of focused awareness or open monitoring, yoga and mindful walking, and even self-inquiry work. But then there are also informal practices: simple daily activities like savoring your meals, being creative, working physically, sending gratitude or well wishes to yourself or others. Or, in my case, being so present with your young child’s bath that your senses seem to heighten and the world slows down. You can feel their soft skin and locks and smell the shampoo so clearly, even ten years later.

Mindfulness is a daily practice. It takes intention and attention. It takes the right attitude — one of trust, patience and acceptance. One needs to be less critical of themselves and to let go. Let go of the desires to be right, to be perfect, to be anything but in the moment. To focus less on the tigers above and the tigers below. And just eat the strawberry.

Tips for a Mindful Day-to-day

  1. Self-care: I create a routine around my care in the morning and/or at night — scrubs, oils, whatever works for you! I even light candles and make it super special.
  2. Early rise: I wake before everyone to practice meditation, read or write.
  3. Love notes: I leave Post-it notes around for my family, especially when I am going away. I also try to give one handwritten note a week to a friend.
  4. Get outside: My husband and I walk the dogs together in the evening. It’s slow and we talk about everything or nothing at all.
  5. Smiling: It sounds easy, but we can get busy or focused and FORGET! If you work alone, you can even place a pencil between your teeth and force a smile. Research shows that it’s the only thing you can fake that your brain doesn’t know about.
  6. Random act: Once a month, I do something unexpected for the person in line behind me – whether at a coffee shop or grocery store.

Read on YogaDigest here.

Ancient Yoga Practices & How to Use Them Today

Rachel Land for Yoga Digest shares and demonstrates three ancient yoga practices. She then teaches you the benefits of each practice and how to fit them in with your current yoga practice.

3 Ancient Yoga Practices to Motivate you Today

You’ve set a New Year’s Resolution – whether it’s to eat more leafy greens, learn a language or run a marathon – but the mornings are cold and dark and you’re not exactly jumping out of bed when the alarm goes off. Everyone could use a little extra oomph at this time of year, and yoga can be surprisingly helpful. There are three concepts from ancient yoga philosophy that are particularly relevant to helping us retain or regain our motivation.

1. Tapas

A central principle of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, one of the Niyamas or moral codes, Tapas means self-discipline. The term has connotations of purifying fire. The idea is that we burn off our inertia, our lethargy, to become stronger – the same way that heat tempers metal.

How to benefit | Stoke the fire.
Start your day with a brief yoga practice. Even five minutes will help you wake up, warm up, boost circulation and build momentum. Focus on poses or practices you enjoy, so that you’ll be inspired to do them. You could try rhythmic movement like Surya Namaskar (sun salutations), full-body poses like Utkatasana (fierce pose) or Virabhadrasana (warrior pose), or warming pranayama practices like Kapalabhati or Surya Bhedana (right nostril breathing).

2. Drishti

Drishti literally means gaze or view, but a deeper translation is focus. Yoga trains the mind as well as the body, with focused practices like visualization and meditation. Research has shown that meditation practice improves our ability to maintain focus1. This is exactly what we need to continue channeling our attention and energy toward achieving our goals, despite the distractions of daily life.

How to benefit | Visualize. Finish your short daily yoga practice by sitting quietly for a minute. Focus on the warmth and vitality in your body. Imagine channeling that energy into realizing your goal. Involve your senses, seeing and feeling the process as vividly as possible. Carry this impression with you as you move into your day.

3. Abhyasa

Another core concept of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is Abhyasa, meaning steady and persistent effort over a long period of time. The same tenacity is required to achieve our goals in life – little by little, day by day, exchanging poor habits for more helpful ones. If we want to run a marathon, we need to run a little more each day until we reach the distance.

How to benefit | Do it daily. Experts agree that small, consistent steps are the best way to maintain motivation long enough to accomplish our goals2 and that morning people who arise at the same time daily are more productive overall3. So set your alarm for the same time each day. Get up, enjoy a short yoga practice, visualize achieving your goal, then use the energy you generate to take one step closer to achieving it.

Wrap Up

We tend to think that willpower alone will get us to our goals, but eventually willpower fails and we need help rebuilding momentum. As Mary Anne Radmacher said “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow”. The ancient wisdom of yoga doesn’t require massive feats of will, just the simple readiness to keep trying.

Read on Yoga Digest here. 

Interview with Tiffany Cruikshank – World Class Performer

World Class Performer’s interview with Tiffany Cruikshank on overcoming dark times, morning routines, Yoga Medicine, and why she still identifies with Nike’s “Just Do It”.

Tiffany Cruikshank: International yoga teacher, author, meditation, and wellness expert

Tiffany has a pre-med bachelor’s degree in Medicinal Plant Biology and Nutrition and a master’s degree in acupuncture and Chinese medicine with a specialization in sports medicine and orthopedics. She is the founder of Yoga Medicine and has treated more than 25,000 patients from around the world using yoga, acupuncture, nutrition, meditation and holistic health.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

Not to worry so much about what other people think.  That one took me a long time.  When I finally realized that there is someone and something out there for everyone and that I just need to stick to what I know and what I’m good at it, that was a really powerful and liberating moment for me.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Almost anytime I hear someone say “never” do this or that I cringe.  As a healthcare provider and after doing many cadaver dissections over the years, I know firsthand that each person really is so unique and each body is so different.  This makes it almost impossible to give blanket answers.  What I love about yoga though is that it teaches mindfulness so that we can each tap into what really nourishes us and helps us show up better in the world.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

My teenage years were hard, I had some pretty dark times in my early teens.  I was teased a lot!  Kids can be awful to each other, I had all sorts of nasty things happen.  I tried drugs, I tried to find friends who understood me.  I have some dark moments in my past and some vivid memories that serve as reminders of my work since.  Yoga was a big part of what helped pull me through. Just feeling comfortable in my skin for a moment was huge.  Also, I think finding something that I was passionate about at a young age helped me focus my energy on something positive and constructive, and at the same time gave me a sense of purpose.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Not trying to please everyone, getting clear in what I’m good at, what my unique strengths are and how I can use that to be of service to the world.  Remembering that it’s not about me. I often guide my students to look at where their strengths and passion intersect with what the world needs and to keep adapting to that.  For me that has been huge!

What is your morning routine? (start with the time you wake up)

I usually wake up around 7 a.m,, however when I’m not traveling sleep is precious so I don’t usually set an alarm. A few minutes of snuggling, if my fiancé and I are both home, is crucial to a good day.  Next mandatory item is to let the dog out, make a morning smoothie, meditate and then we usually play with our dog for a few minutes.  She loves to play with toys in the morning and I always think to myself, “everyone should start their day like this, who wouldn’t be happy after playing with a cute dog?”

Next it’s yoga time to get my cortisol up early in the day, then off to my computer.  When I’m not traveling, I work from home most days and spend most of the day on the computer managing the business, writing new content for our trainings, creating online courses, articles, interviews, emails, etc.  With all the travel I do, I really need a schedule, sticking to it really helps my body and my energy levels.  Sometimes I also do a short restorative practice in the evening if I’ve been traveling a lot or feel burnt out to help nourish my adrenals.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Meditation, hands down.  It helps me in so many ways- managing stress, mental efficiency, mental clarity, decision making.  I rarely talk about it because I don’t feel like it affects me much anymore but I was diagnosed with depression and ADD when I was a teenager and took medication for a couple of years.  I credit meditation and yoga for keeping me focused, healthy and efficient since.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

It’s all about lists for me.

There’s never moment where there aren’t a million things happening and they all seem critically important and time sensitive.  I keep a prioritized list of the things I need to do and highlight what I need to do each day. Then I block the rest out.  I should probably have it on an app or something but I like paper.

Also, food is crucial.  Finding the right balance of protein/fat/carbs to keep my blood sugar balanced and maintain a steady fuel for my mind and body through the day.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

Either 1- Meditate, even a couple minutes is helpful, 2- Get a fresh perspective by changing tasks or 3- Move- I have a small trampoline that works well for quick breaks, if I’m really dragging I do a bit of yoga.  I also love to get upside down to revive my mental efficiency.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

I have multiple bookshelves overflowing with books so I’d say all of them, books are my life.  I love being able to grab a book anytime and sit down and fill my brain with information.  Which means, that I rarely read fiction. I read to learn so mostly read educational books, it’s not uncommon to see me pawing through a hefty textbook.

A recent favorite was When Breath Becomes Air.  Some other books I love are: The Brain that Changes Itself, Molecules of Emotion, Anatomy of an Illness, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, The Spark in the Machine, Siddhartha’s Brain, The Sensitive Nervous System, Human Heart Cosmic Heart, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life and so many others.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

Just do it.  I worked at Nike for over 6 years and this always spoke to me.  I’m not one to sit around thinking about doing things. I prefer getting things done.

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