Tiffany Cruikshank, creator of Yoga Medicine and featured in 24Life, is paving the way for ancient Eastern insight and modern Western practices to work together for good health for the individual—and now, for women at risk.
“My mom ran a homeless shelter when I was a kid,” Cruikshank says, “And it’s always been really important to me to give back to the community.”
At Nike, where she launched an acupuncture and yoga program for employees, she was introduced to the problem of human trafficking through Nike’s charitable efforts.
“It really changed my outlook and was something—as an empowered and educated woman—that I felt in my core” needed her help, Cruikshank says. “Eighteen million of the 40 million people trafficked worldwide are in India, and as someone who makes yoga their life, it felt really important for me to give back to this culture that’s given us so much.”
To tackle this problem, Cruikshank and her student Kira Grace, who has a successful yoga clothing line, formed the Yoga Medicine Seva Foundation. The nonprofit runs a shelter in India that rehabilitates women and empowers them through yoga but, more importantly, through finding the meaningful vocational skills that bring them above the poverty line.
In June 2019, watch for the Tiffany Cruikshank line at KiraGrace.com. Cruikshank and Grace are launching the collection to benefit the Yoga Medicine Seva Foundation, which will receive all profits from sales of the elegant tops and bottoms designed by Cruikshank and produced by Grace.
Cruikshank says the women who benefit from the foundation’s programs “can support themselves and their families, and it’s incredible to see the confidence, the happiness. … And to watch what these girls do when they come out the other side is life-changing.”
In this week’s episode, you will learn about using your own energy for self-regulation, balancing mind and body through breathwork, medicinal benefits of yoga, and harnessing the power of your own mind to reach your potential.
Click here to listen to the Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio Podcast with Tiffany.
“For our 31st episode, I sat down with Tiffany Cruickshank. I met Tiffany at Yoga Journal Live Event in SF. I took some of her Yoga Medicine workshops over a few years and I absolutely loved her approach to the body, her attention to the anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. Since then I’ve been following her online and dreaming of doing her trainings. I’m in awe with all the work she does as a yoga teacher, teacher trainer, author, and activist, so I was very excited to sit down with her and chat about it all.”
Click here to listen to the On and Off Your Mat Podcast with Tiffany.
Inspired by her conversation with Tiffany Cruikshank, Yoga Journal ambassador Lauren Cohen shares several thought exercises to help yoga instructors recommit to the path of teaching.
Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today.
About four years ago I quit my full-time job in public relations and dedicated myself to teaching yoga full-time. Amidst the ongoing attempts to perfect my schedule and avoid getting lost in social media mayhem or a comparison trap, I’ve worked hard to remember what it is I love about the practice, what it is that got me hooked. At times it can feel competitive, especially in San Francisco, where so many teachers are teaching full-time, hustling to fill their classrooms, hosting retreats, and seeking those “prime-time” classes.
Now that I’m on the Live Be Yoga Tour, the time away from my day-to-day rhythm and regular class schedule has offered me distance, and in that distance I have gained a ton of perspective already. Yet it wasn’t until I sat down with Tiffany Cruikshank that I felt invigorated and inspired to go back to the drawing board and ask myself some fundamental questions about why I practice and why I teach.
Tiffany is the founder of Yoga Medicine and a teacher trainer whom I’ve had the privilege of studying with over the years. I’ve also watched her build an amazing brand and business that is thriving in so many ways. It was an honor to chat with her about yoga’s evolution, hear her enthusiasm and excitement about how many more people are practicing today, and ask her for solid advice for instructors, like me, who are choosing yoga as a career path.
We covered the importance of quality education, what it means to “make it” as a yoga teacher today, and ways to create a positive impact within our communities while staying true to our intention as teachers. Tiffany’s enthusiasm about the ways yoga continues to reach more people was so infectious that, though lately I’d been feeling discouraged, I left our talk feeling hopeful and reinvigorated. I was eager to return to my classes with even more intention and focus, to distill what it is I truly want to share, and to figure out how to do it consistently.
You may question how this happened in a 60-minute conversation. Well, like all effective educators, Tiffany inspired me to ask myself key questions about my path as a yoga instructor. If you, too, are a yoga teacher, I believe you should do the same. Here, several questions to help you dive deeper into what you love about this practice and determine what you feel most called to share.
Navigating the Path of Teaching Yoga? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Are you clear about your intentions?
If you are clear and honest about your intentions, and constantly checking in with yourself, you can lead from a grounded place instead of getting lost in the “race to the top.” To do this, Tiffany suggests acknowledging three things: What you love most about the practice; what you’re good at; and what your community needs. “If you put these things together to be of service, many of the other pressures associated with being a teacher can dissipate,” says Tiffany. As a result, you remain sincere, make a long-lasting impact, and create a niche for yourself.
When Tiffany Cruikshank’s parents sent her off to a wilderness program at 14, little did they know their “troublemaker” daughter would blaze a trail for Eastern and Western medicine practices to work together to help people around the world truly thrive.
Cruikshank is the creator of Yoga Medicine, a training regimen and platform for yoga teachers to infuse and up-level their instruction with an understanding of anatomy, physiology and biomechanics to help their clients regain health and improve performance. For Western health practitioners, Yoga Medicine offers a way to help patients find the yoga instruction that will provide the therapeutic benefits they need.
At the wilderness program, Cruikshank encountered yoga as well as plant-based medicine for the first time—and was captivated by both. To the athletic teen, yoga initially had purely physical appeal, and plant walks with an herbalist at the camp sparked her interest in holistic medicine.
Back at home, Cruikshank found a yoga class (“a wooden sign with a phone number—this was before the internet”) and started apprenticing with an herbalist. Both practices felt empowering, and when she graduated high school at 16 and entered college in pre-medicine, she knew she wanted to go into some form of medicine.
“But I didn’t really know what kind of medicine,” Cruikshank says. “So I looked into Western and naturopathic and Ayurvedic medicine, and I really fell in love with Chinese medicine and being able to look at the whole person. Yoga really went along with that: It was another modality of being able to work with the person who is in front of me and give them tools”—tools that didn’t require any fancy equipment, just body awareness.
When Cruikshank completed her premed and medicinal plant biology studies and got her college degree, she went on to four years of study in traditional Chinese medicine and started her acupuncture practice. That’s when a little empirical evidence led to her breakthrough.
“I saw a lot of patients who also practiced yoga,” Cruikshank explains. “And right away, I noticed that my patients who did yoga responded more quickly. So I started giving what I called yoga prescriptions to my patients who didn’t do yoga and found that it really helped, as well.”
Then came the opportunity to test her observations—at Nike. As a lifelong athlete, Cruikshank developed her acupuncture practice to specialize in orthopedics and sports medicine. When the global athletic gear giant wanted to introduce acupuncture to its employees, it tapped Cruikshank to get that program off the ground.
“A lot of the people who work [at Nike] not only have a full-time job but also are full-time athletes, even pro or semipro, which was really fun,” she says. But not easy. Cruikshank says she had to figure out how to navigate employees’ dual stressors of working 60 hours a week and athletic competition.
One employee was preparing to swim the English Channel: “She swam it not only one way but back, which was crazy, on top of a full-time job at Nike,” Cruikshank recalls. “It was really fun to be able to have that extra challenge of not just working with a competitive athlete but also now a competitive athlete who’s a very busy human being” with work and family.
Cruikshank also taught yoga as part of the Nike program and saw how quickly employees recognized the benefits to their training routine. Her work there also helped her zero in on the key to those benefits for competitive and everyday athletes: body awareness.
Health begins in awareness
“Athletes are so in tune with their bodies that as soon as they really start to see how it affects them, it’s hard not to become hooked on yoga,” Cruikshank says—and that’s why yoga “is such a huge thing now in sports medicine and professional athletics.”
Cruikshank regards yoga as a calibrator for navigating a middle path between healthy resilience and healthy stress that prompts gains in growth and strength—whether physical or mental, or both.
“Body-awareness—being able to have some kind of awareness of what’s going on inside of myself—is the foundation of everything in health care,” Cruikshank says. “If a patient doesn’t know anything about what they’re feeling or how they’re responding to the treatments I’m giving them, it’s very difficult as a health care provider to navigate the best course of action. And if the goal is fine-tuning health and wellness, then body-awareness is essential—I can’t find the right exercise or nutrition regimen without it.”
Yoga in the medicine cabinet
With some awareness, the expanding universe of yoga practice shifts from overwhelming choice to individual opportunity. Cruikshank points out that the many types of practice allow for personalization, not only from individual to individual but from day to day.
For professional athletes, that personalization is essential when needs differ before and after competition, and in season and out of season. Cruikshank gives the example of high-profile football clients whose needs “on Monday are very different from Friday.”
But Cruikshank’s passion is for helping those who are not experts navigate their options. “For a health-care provider,” she says, “it’s really negligent to just refer someone to yoga [generically] because they could end up on bolsters and cushions, or jumping or hopping, or chanting, all of which could be helpful, and all of which could also not be helpful, or maybe worse.”
Mindset also is an important factor. “We see in biomechanics that I actually fire different muscles when I feel comfortable in my environment versus when I feel threatened or afraid,” Cruikshank explains. She adds that the more research there is into the power of the mind, the more we understand how important awareness is in recalibrating our health and wellness.
Yoga empowers the patient—through body awareness—to advocate for himself or herself and ask questions, Cruikshank says, such as, “Why do I need to do that? Do I have to do that? What happens if I don’t do that? What are my options?” And, she says, the importance of mindset extends to the health-care practitioner, as well.
“Surgeons want you [the patient] to be confident because we know it’s really important for the outcome. … So I think there’s a balance, too, of being able to ask questions and then move forward and trust [your provider],” Cruikshank says. “Place your trust in this person, but also remember that you need to continuously be an advocate of your own health care.”
Finding your balance
Cruikshank recognizes that physical practice alone might not lead to self-awareness; mindset can block it. Her first book, “Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life” (CreateSpace, second edition, December 2014), curates nutrition, yoga and meditation practices for readers to introduce week by week to build healthy habits, decrease the stress load on their bodies and revitalize their health.
But some patients still did not respond to these healthy lifestyle changes, prompting Cruikshank to take a closer look at why. “One thing I felt was important was looking at mindset and looking at how they talk to themselves, how they see themselves,” she says.
Being able to question our ideas of who we are and where we belong in the world are powerful tools in the practice of yoga, and she wrote her second book, “Meditate Your Weight” (Penguin Random House, April 2016), about making peace with our health and our bodies to create long-term, sustainable patterns.
It starts with a nonjudgmental attitude toward ourselves—including our yoga practice. “I think where people struggle the most in yoga and in health care is when they get attached to a certain style or a certain way and then become rigid around that,” Cruikshank says. “[The key is] to be able to see—without being attached to which way is right or wrong—and know what will be helpful for me in this time.”
When best is not better
Cruikshank advocates the following self-talk: “I’m not here to do the best yoga practice ever. I’m here to do my yoga practice so that I can be better when I leave.” She continues, “No one really cares how great you did your yoga pose if you’re a jerk when you leave. Yoga is there to help us connect to ourselves so that yeah, we might still be a jerk from time to time, but then maybe we notice it and maybe we can laugh.”
“There’s a physicality to yoga, but there’s also this nonjudgmental awareness that creates self-empathy, and self-empathy is the foundation for my capacity to have empathy for other people,” she says. “This is the spiritual side of yoga that is really accessible to everyone.”
It’s nice to have so many options to access better health, Cruikshank says, but “it can also be overwhelming to feel like I’ve got to have my green juice, I’ve got to do my myofascial release, I’ve got to do my yoga, I have to meditate, and then I have to go to the gym and I have to do my cardio, but I have to make sure I take time out during my day to meditate again.”
“Just mindful attention is a form of self-care,” Cruikshank adds. “Sometimes allowing yourself not to have to do all those things is a form of self-care. Sometimes saying no is a form of self-care. … And so, I think balance is the key word.”
Secret Strength: Connective Tissue
Tiffany Cruikshank says that insights into the function of fascia and connective tissue are transforming ideas about health—and she believes this understanding will underpin advances in sports medicine.
Fascial tissue is the connective tissue that encases our muscles and attaches them to our bones. From her observations of cadaver dissections, Cruikshank says the muscle tissue itself is usually fine, but the connective tissue is often adhered or damaged. “The new understanding of injuries is really that most, if not maybe all of them, are happening in that connective tissue. It’s no longer just a question of contractile [muscle] strength, but also the connective tissue strength that encases it; the connective tissue is what trains the tissues to be resilient,” she explains.
Connective tissue responds to diversity of movement and diversity of stimulus. “One of the easiest, simplest take-aways is just doing different things, moving in different directions, finding different ways to approach your training or yoga practice, and of course myofascial release can be a great tool when you need to be more specific,” Cruikshank concludes.
In this interview, Tiffany gives us a glimpse into her beginnings as a teacher many years ago, how she began her work as a yoga teacher and how she developed her brand, Yoga Medicine, into the powerhouse it is today, with over 7,000 teachers around the world trained in her methods and part of her teaching network.
Click here to listen to the podcast on Bare Bones Yoga’s website.
When it comes to self-care, you often hear about spa days, manicures, and face masks, but true self-care goes far beyond beauty treatments. Everyone deserves a chance to take a break from their busy schedule, reconnect with themselves, and take care of their mental health. So what do you do when you’d like some self-care, but aren’t in the mood for a massage? We asked influencers and experts for their recommendations.
Get Some Quiet Time
Experts agree that meditation is one of the best ways to ease stress and focus on your needs. “My morning meditation is my daily mental health self-care routine,” says Tiffany Cruikshank (L.A.c., MAOM, RYT) and founder of Yoga Medicine. “Setting aside a few minutes each day to check in with your internal state (sensations, feelings, breath), can be a simple but powerful practice.” Christi-an Slomka, community manager at Calm, added that daily meditation brings about relaxation, focus, and mental clarity. “Meditation is a simple way to check in with yourself and develop an awareness of your unique needs. Honoring and tending to those needs, sometimes described as listening to the quiet voice within, is at the foundation of a healthy and happy life.”
To meditate, Cruikshank recommended sitting comfortably, focusing on your breath, and simply being aware of your body. If thoughts creep in, don’t worry or judge. Just let the thoughts pass and try to keep the focus on how your body feels. Slomka said that listening to a guided meditation or your favorite song are great ways to relax your mind and connect to deeper feelings.
“One of the tenets of self-care is taking care of your health. When you’re strong physically it transcends into empowering all facets of your life,” says Jillian Michaels, legendary health and wellness expert and creator of the My Fitness by Jillian Michaels app. “Therefore, I try to get in at least four half-hour workouts in per week.” In only two hours a week, no matter your fitness level, you’ll start to feel progress mentally and physically, says Michaels. By focusing on your progress (instead of how tough each workout feels), you’ll feel like a success after every session. Plus, the endorphin boost will help your mental clarity and overall mood.
Take Care Of Your Commitments…To Yourself
“Self-care for me is more like ‘self-parenting,’ which means following through on the things I know are good for me, like meditation and exercise, when I’d rather get in a bubble bath and devour a pint of ice cream,” said Emily McDowell, artist and founder of Emily McDowell & Friends. “Self-parenting” may not be as fun as a face mask, but overall it brings a greater sense of calm and contentment, according to McDowell. “Consistently showing up for yourself—honoring your commitments to yourself in the same way you honor commitment to others—is the best way I’ve found to create an internal feeling of trust and safety.” So, when you tell yourself to wake up early to meditate and follow through (even though the bed feels so comfy!) you’re putting yourself first in the best possible way.
Go To Therapy
Therapy is an intimidating topic for lots of people, but attending to your feelings and anxieties is incredibly important. Plus, when you go to therapy, you get an opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings without judgement and with lots of empathy. Who wouldn’t want that? “I love a good sheet mask or warm bath, but therapy, and caring for and addressing my mental health needs, is my most important self-care practice,” said Kate Spencer, author and co-host of the Forever35 Podcast. Though her podcast details all kinds of self-care for all kinds of women, the coping tools and objective listening that come with therapy make it Spencer’s number one tip.
Cook a New Recipe
Though ordering in is the easy option, cooking for yourself can be a rewarding experience. Registered dietitian Colleen Christensen says that trying a new recipe is a great way to make cooking fun (playing your favorite podcast while you’re in the kitchen ups the fun a little more).
“Eating dinner is often something that is rushed and you really lose out on the experiencing of enjoying the food. Carve out 45 minutes to make a meal and enjoy it,” says Christensen. She also recommends giving baking a try (using a box mix is totally OK). “Having freshly baked cookies, breads, muffins or brownies in the house just exudes happiness!”
Keep a Simple Budget
Personal finances? As self-care? Sure, budgeting can sound more like self-punishment than self-care, but Brittany Yoon, finance and wellness expert at Ethos, says that ridding yourself of financial anxiety can be the best way to take care of yourself. “Financial self-care isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach and we shouldn’t treat it that way,” says Yoon. “That’s why it’s so important to start your journey to financial wellness with a budget based on your income and standing.” By setting a budget, you know exactly where you are financially and can plan accordingly for your future goals. Instead of keeping money in the dark and letting your worries go wild, a budget keeps it all in the open and helps you reduce monetary stress.
When you want to declutter your mind, sometimes it’s best to start with decluttering your surroundings. Nina, wellness expert and blogger said that organizing your house is a great way to relax. Thankfully, you don’t have to go full Marie Kondo to feel results. “I set the timer for 25 minutes and declutter a drawer, a cupboard, or a pile on my desk,” said Nina. “I like to just pick something, especially if it’s been bothering me for a while, set a timer, and go to town!” In less than half an hour, that annoying messy space will be beautifully organized. Then, you can sit back, admire your work and relax.
Make a Friend Appointment
Between relationships, families, and jobs, it’s hard to keep friendships going as an adult. So making an effort to keep those important people in your life can go a long way towards better mental health. Self-care blogger Hila Willing has a method for consistently connecting with her companions. “I send weekly texts to check in on my friends—I have recurring reminders set in my Google calendar. These feed into plans for a monthly meet-up where we sometimes just go for a walk or a run in the park.” By literally making appointments to check in with friends, Willing has consistent quality time with the important people in her life.
Get Crafty With a Coloring Book
Sometimes, you just need a break from scrolling screens and laptops. Achea Redd, mental health advocate and founder of Real Girls F.A.R.T., suggests exploring your artistic side with your favorite craft. Her favorite: coloring books! “Science has shown that there are many health benefits to being joyful and coloring can bring peace to an overactive mind,” says Redd. “For me, coloring books just focus you and bring your thoughts in!”
Jot It Down
If crafts and coloring aren’t your cup of tea, writing might be more relaxing. Acacia Parks, Ph. D. and chief scientist at Happify, suggests journaling as a way to deal with anxiety. “Right before bed is typically when your to-do’s pop into your head,” says Dr. Parks. “Keep a notebook next to your bed to write down distracting thoughts to handle the next day. Writing them down gives you permission to stop thinking about them until then.” This can help you get to sleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake up refreshed. A good night’s sleep might be the best self-care of all.
Stop Putting Off the Fun Stuff
Though we’ve talked about lots of responsible forms of self-care, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun. “Type-A achievers often feel like they are only allowed to have fun after all the work is done,” says Neeta Bhushan, author of Amazon best-seller Emotional GRIT. “It is OK to do things just for fun.” Though self-care activities can feel like a “waste of time,” there’s nothing wasteful about making time for yourself. A little bit of fun during a busy week can reduce stress and make the rest of the work week feel a little easier.
“Self-care using a beauty mask is exactly that—a mask,” said Ali Boone, an aerospace engineer-turned spiritual psychologist. To really care for your deeper self, Boone recommended something you probably haven’t done in years. “PLAY. Yes, go play. Get your hands dirty, have some fun, and do it with reckless abandon.”
With so many people living lives on a tight schedule with deadline after deadline, it’s hard to prioritize play as an adult, says Boone. But play brings joy. “When we feel joy, we feel better about ourselves. We are able to appreciate where we are. We feel connection. We feel purpose. As soon as we don’t feel those things, we quickly enter into mental health issues.” Play is different for every person, so Boone recommends doing anything that’s not directly related to work and brings you happiness. “Go swing on a swing. Go lay in the grass and let the sun hit you in the face for hours. Go completely lazy on your couch and watch the most tragically cheesy show you can find,” says Boone. Take a break from unrealistic goals of productivity and perfection and place importance on having fun.
Senior Yoga Medicine teacher and therapeutic specialist, Allie Geer, explains three common mistakes people make when performing self myofascial release—and what you can do to avoid them.
Self myofascial release targets fascia by using specialized tools, including balls in different shapes and sizes, foam rollers, rods, sticks, and even yoga blocks. These practices are showing up more and more in yoga classes—and for good reason! Until recently, fascia was disregarded, considered an unimportant system. What we now know is that this network plays a huge role in our health.
Fascia can be defined as one continuous system of connective tissue, woven through us from head to toe, front to back, and side to side. It communicates, fills space, protects, supports, and interrelates with all structures in the body (bone, muscle, and more). Because of the interrelated nature of fascia, releasing one area of the body can potentially affect the whole body. This is referred to as “regional interdependence.” We can see this well-defined in the fascial trains (such as the superficial back line, deep front line, and spiral line) described by Anatomy Trains author Tom Myers.
Fascial trains are believed to be continuous interconnected tissues within the body that respond collectively to resistance and pressure. For example, “the superficial back line,” according to Myers, includes anatomical landmarks such as the plantar fascia of the foot, the gastrocnemius (a calf muscle), the hamstrings, the sacrotuberous ligament of the pelvis, the erector spinae muscles, and the epicranial fascia at the top of the head. It is believed that when releasing one part of the body within this chain we can relieve tension throughout the whole chain. Similarly, when experiencing tension in one part of the body (for example, the calf), it is important to work with areas above and below it on the chain (such as the hamstrings and/or plantar fascia).
Self myofascial release techniques are designed to enable and encourage inhibited tissue, or restrictions within our body, to let go. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on our mobility (i.e., the ability to passively take a joint through its optimal range of motion without restriction). But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of SMR is the effect it can have on the nervous system. Fascia is loaded with sensory nerves that communicate directly with our central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord.
And that brings us to the first of three common mistakes people make when working with SMR. We’ll explore these errors below, along with some simple ways to correct them and avoid them altogether.
Mistake #1: Holding Your Breath, and Not Connecting to the Nervous System
A common mistake in performing myofascial release is the failure to connect to the nervous system—specifically the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS, also known as the “rest and digest” nervous system)—by holding our breath and/or applying pressure that’s too intense. Myofascial release practices should never feel painful, sharp, or shooting. We should NEVER brace or hold our breath.
The PSNS controls our ability to rest, recover, release, and relax. Breath is key. When we are breathing fully, smoothly, and evenly, we stay connected to the PSNS more easily, sending signals to our brain and back to our muscles and our fascia to release.
In my classes, workshops, and trainings, holding the breath and bracing the body in the hope of protecting it is one of the most common mistakes I see. This can have adverse effects; in fact, it will activate the sympathetic nervous system—fight, flight, or freeze. It can ultimately cause more restriction in the body, potentially leading to pain or even injury.
1. Less is more: If you are feeling intense sensation, change your approach or modify it by using a softer tool. You could also place a blanket over the tool for more support. If you are using myofascial balls, to help dissipate the sensation I suggest using two balls side by side instead of one. You might also use a chair or a wall to take the weight off your body.
2. Work indirectly before working directly. If you experience pain in an area of your body when a tool is applied to it, back off. Work around the area rather than directly on the “hot spot.” This means you could work above, below, or side to side.
3. Breathe. When applying a tool to the body, instead of counting seconds, I suggest counting breaths—5 to 10 slow, deep, unrestricted, releasing breaths. This will in turn activate the PSNS. This is how the magic happens. This is how release can occur. The body will soften and let go via the breath. The breath is also how you can self-regulate your response to self myofascial release. If the breath becomes restricted or choppy, that’s an indication that you have applied too much pressure.
Mistake #2: Not Moving Afterward
After performing SMR we have a unique window of opportunity to encourage a change within our tissues. This concept is called “neuroplasticity”—the ability to actually shift the neural pathways that were once restricting or inhibiting our tissues. Post-SMR movement will encourage new neural pathways of optimal mobility, blood flow, and range of motion. This window can last up to 10 minutes. So it’s important to take a few moments, by moving, to re-educate the nervous system about what we want it to release or enable. This movement can be as static as a basic stretch or as dynamic as a simple yoga flow.
For example, after releasing the piriformis muscle (deep in the glutes near the top of the hip), you could do pigeon pose followed by a vinyasa, or even a simple supine figure four. Give your body and mind a chance to assess and notice any difference. Encourage the change you want to experience by inspiring and re-educating new pathways in your nervous system.
Mistake #3: Using Myofascial Release to Treat Symptoms
Although it may help to relieve muscle soreness and pain, we shouldn’t get into the habit of using myofascial release only when symptoms arise. I encourage students to use this practice as a preventative, which will ultimately be more beneficial for the tissues. I like to tell people to make it a daily habit, just like brushing your teeth. Although there are many immediate benefits from self myofascial release, actual reconstruction of the fascia occurs over time, taking anywhere from six to 24 months (unlike muscle repair, which can take six to eight weeks). The key is to do a little myofascial release every day. That will have the biggest impact on your body.
Here are some tips for effective daily practice:
• Don’t beat up the same spot over and over. Remember that fascia is one interconnected system in the body. Therefore, applying myofascial release to one area of the body could also promote release elsewhere.
• Try working along the myofascial chains. Working different areas along the same line is a good approach. You don’t have to spend a ton of time every day—five minutes a day over a consistent period of time can produce good results.
• If, for example, you decide to roll your feet every day (which is a great idea), you might pick a different point of focus each day—such as the inner arch of the foot, the lateral arch, the ball of the foot, or the heel—and spend a little extra time there.
Above all, keep the practice accessible, tolerable, and simple. Don’t forget to breathe, and don’t forget to move afterward. Soon enough you’ll have rolled your way to a freer body and mind.
Yoga Medicine®’s is a trademark used to identify products and services offered, related to the study and practice of yoga. None of these products or services involve the practice of medicine or take the place of medical consultation. We urge you to consult a physician or other health care professional of your choice before undertaking any form of exercise, including yoga, to make sure that it is safe and appropriate for you.
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