Tiffany Cruikshank is an internationally renowned yoga instructor, who has spent the past 20 years crafting a methodology for teaching and practicing yoga, wherein the practice is melded with Eastern and Western notions of medicine. Cruikshank’s teaching is held up by her work as a holistic health practitioner, acupuncturist, and sports medicine expert. Based in Seattle, Cruikshank teaches regularly for YogaGlo, and travels extensively around the world. She is also the author of Meditate Your Weight. Her approach has helped thousands of yogis around the world see their practice in a new light as a result of Cruikshank’s innovative thinking and dedication to the practice.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TIFFANY. WHAT IS YOUR “BACKSTORY”?
I founded Yoga Medicine® to create a resource of yoga teachers trained more deeply in anatomy, physiology and pathology to serve the medical communities. As a healthcare provider myself, I saw the noticeable impact these practices had on my patient outcomes as well as the desire for healthcare providers to be able to safely refer patients to yoga as a supplement to both their diagnosis as well as their ongoing health and wellness.
Western medicine is mind-blowing when it comes life-saving measure, however we fall short when it comes to ongoing wellness and prevention. And why should one healthcare provider be responsible for all of that? With all of the information we now know in any medical specialty, it’s impossible to know everything. We must learn to work together better as healthcare providers and with the support of non-healthcare providers like yoga teachers, that’s where we become an efficient and effective system.
The tricky part is that there’s such a broad range of experience in the yoga world, you can attend a short training and call yourself a teacher. We have over 1500 hours of training compared to the typical 200hr training most teachers receive. Our transparent platform allows anyone to search through our database of thousands of teachers by postal code. You can find teachers near you and see exactly what trainings they’ve completed and know that they have a breadth of training in both western anatomical information and research as well as the traditional practices of yoga that have been around for so many decades. We fuse the best of both worlds and provide a resource of teachers trained to a higher caliber, raising the bar for yoga teachers.
CAN YOU SHARE YOUR TOP THREE “LIFESTYLE TWEAKS” THAT YOU BELIEVE WILL HELP SUPPORT PEOPLE’S JOURNEY TOWARDS BETTER WELLBEING?
1. Myofascial release (MFR) is my go-to for self-care for so many things. It’s accessible, easy to use and easy to take on the go if you travel a lot like me. I’ve used it with my patients for over 15 years and have found it to be a really essential tool so I also train our yoga teachers to use it as well. It’s so easy to learn and such a great tool to have to keep the tissues healthy and resilient.
2. I love YogaGlo as a resource for quick and accessible yoga classes for health and wellness. They have a wealth of incredible teachers from around the world and I love that you can find exactly what you need with their thousands of classes to filter through by length or level or topic, etc.
3. My daily meditation is the most important, though. It helps me maintain my mental health in a busy world (of course, along with the basic essentials as well, like eating good quality whole foods and getting plenty of sleep.) What I love about yoga and meditation is that they often spark a deeper awareness of what is most helpful when it comes to food and how I can get a more restful sleep. The tricky part about doing research on yoga is that it often instigates other lifestyle changes as we become more mindful, a wonderful side effect. I love it when people choose to make changes because they feel better, rather than the “no pain, no gain” mentality that often gets left behind with the resolutions at some point.
CAN YOU SHARE THE MOST INTERESTING STORY THAT HAPPENED TO YOU SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?
Well I struggled a lot in my teens and at the age of 14, my parents sent me away on a wilderness program that changed everything for me. I met an herbalist there that taught me how to use the environment around me as medicine, it sparked a passion inside of me to heal and help others as well as my love and intrigue for holistic wellness. Soon after I found yoga, and as an athlete growing up, the physicality of it drew me in — but there was always something else that kept me coming back for more. Eager to study more, I graduated early and went off to college at 16. I did my premed degree and then went on to study Chinese Medicine, all the while teaching yoga. As I started seeing patients, I quickly saw the need for yoga in the wellness realm and created Yoga Medicine® to help bridge the gap between yoga and the medical world. We’re also just starting to offer classes and courses to medical professionals as well, to support the ongoing health and wellness of our healthcare providers and to address topics like burnout and mental health.
CAN YOU SHARE A STORY ABOUT THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU MADE WHEN YOU WERE FIRST STARTING? CAN YOU TELL US WHAT LESSON YOU LEARNED FROM THAT?
I don’t know about mistakes, because that implies you’ve done something wrong — If I did anything differently it would not have turned out as it did. I think mistakes are part of the process so long as you use them to continue to grow and respond. I believe the only mistake we can make is not learning from our mistakes and struggles or from not being adaptable along the way. I know for myself and my business, one of the secrets to my success has been constantly listening and adapting the business to meet the needs of the communities.
One thing I struggled with early on was delegating, it’s a hard line to draw when you have a business built on the founder’s vision. I felt really strongly that we needed to maintain the quality and integrity of what we do as we continued to grow. I didn’t want to sacrifice that for fast growth. I’ve had offers to fund our growth, but I didn’t believe it was the right path for us and I really believe that slow, high quality growth was important for us. However, I learned early on the importance of delegating so that we could grow and maintain a high degree of quality. I was lucky enough to have my medical practice to support what I was creating with Yoga Medicine® so that I could continue to pour my heart and income into moving my vision forward. I’ve also learned the importance of investing in a great team and supporting a positive culture.
WHEN IT COMES TO HEALTH AND WELLNESS, HOW IS THE WORK YOU ARE DOING HELPING TO MAKE A BIGGER IMPACT IN THE WORLD?
We’re helping to fill the gaps in our medical system with effective and efficient options or supplements to our healthcare. There are so many issues that western medicine doesn’t have great solutions for. Take the opioid epidemic for instance, where yoga and meditation can be a useful adjunct. Pain pills are rarely the solution and often create a much larger problem, whereas a yoga or meditation practice can be an important supplemental practice to support mental and physical health and outcomes. We’re learning so much about pain right now and realizing that chronic pain isn’t often a mechanical issue as much as a communication issue in the signaling in the brain. Mindfulness practices can be an effective way to work with reprogramming the response in the brain.
We also have a nonprofit (Yoga Medicine® Seva Foundation) that is partially funded by the profits of Yoga Medicine®. Our nonprofit supports a shelter for women rescued from trafficking in Delhi, India, providing them with resources and vocational empowerment while also giving back to a community that has given us the practice of yoga so many years ago. We leverage the Yoga Medicine® community and voice to speak up and create a change in a much needed demographic.
NONE OF US ARE ABLE TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS WITHOUT SOME HELP ALONG THE WAY. IS THERE A PARTICULAR PERSON WHO YOU ARE GRATEFUL TOWARDS WHO HELPED GET YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE? CAN YOU SHARE A STORY ABOUT THAT?
I owe a lot to my husband, Forrest. He’s been such a huge support, encouraging me along the way. He works in startups, so he’s also been a big support for my business and has helped me a lot over the years when I have big decisions to make or important positions to fill. It’s so important to have someone in your life to bounce ideas off who you trust and respect, I feel really lucky to have his experience at my fingertips. I also feel really grateful to be surrounded by so many incredible teachers in our community, without our dedicated, intelligent, hardworking teachers the vision would be empty. I feel so lucky to have so many gifted teachers in our community.
IF YOU COULD START A MOVEMENT THAT WOULD BRING THE MOST AMOUNT OF WELLNESS TO THE MOST AMOUNT OF PEOPLE, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
Yoga in healthcare! Make it accessible and adaptable to the individual. It’s great because there’s really no equipment needed, just a well-trained teacher.
WHAT IS YOUR “3 THINGS I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME BEFORE I STARTED” AND WHY?
It’s always a work in process so learn the value of no, keep putting on foot in front of the other and never lose sight of your vision and purpose!
DO YOU HAVE A “GIRL-CRUSH” IN THIS INDUSTRY? IF YOU COULD TAKE ONE PERSON TO BRUNCH, WHO WOULD IT BE? (LET ANOTHER “WOMAN IN WELLNESS” KNOW THAT YOU RESPECT HER AS A TEACHER AND GUIDE!
I really respect Gwyneth Paltrow and the spotlight she has put on holistic health with Goop. I used to work with Frank Lipman and he introduced me to Goop in its inception many years ago and I’ve really enjoyed watching it grow. I think they do a great job of covering a broad diversity of holistic health topics and keeping the quality of content high as well as speaking to the layman without watering it down. I’m also obsessed with her Goop skincare line.
SUSTAINABILITY, VEGANISM, MENTAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGES ARE BIG TOPICS AT THE MOMENT. WHICH ONE OF THESE CAUSES IS DEAREST TO YOU, AND WHY?
Such great topics, but I’d have to say mental health. I really believe it’s the key to health and wellness. We’re learning more and more about the power of the mind through research and it’s pretty mind blowing. My specialty has always been orthopedics and sports medicine but after 15+ years of seeing thousands of patients, the more I work in this field the clearer it is to me just how important our mental health is. Which is why I’m so happy meditation has become such a huge trend!
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY OUR READERS CAN FOLLOW YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
@Yoga_Medicine (IG & Twitter) @TiffanyCruikshank on IG for my personal page, Yoga Medicine® by Tiffany Cruikshank on FB