If there’s one word we can all relate to right now, it’s change. Each and every one of us has experienced more transition and uncertainty in the past few months than we have in years or maybe, ever. The good news is, we’re in it together. And Tiffany Cruikshank is right there with us. For the Yoga Medicine founder, COVID-19 has brought about major changes in her business model, forcing her to bring her renowned yoga teacher training completely online.
Working with over 25,000 patients, Cruikshank knows a little something about healing. She views her newfound challenges as blessings in disguise—pointing out positives like being able to reach a broader market virtually, and having the opportunity to optimize her schedule while at-home. Perhaps her favorite recovery technique of all? Yoga. “I feel strongly that exercise you enjoy is important, not only so you stick to it but also in its effects on our musculoskeletal system, physiology and mental health,” she tells Nutritious Life. “Yoga is wonderful for a home practice, my favorite part is that you don’t need any equipment.”
Cruikshank’s practice actually began at home in 2003, where she led informal trainings to local teachers in her area. Today, she offers hundreds of online classes at YogaMedicine.com, making it accessible to anyone in need of a mindful break. She opens up to Nutritious Life about her layered fitness philosophy, the ingredient that’s in almost every meal she eats, and the simple breathing technique that has saved her from stress.
How have things changed for you since COVID-19 hit? What has been your biggest challenge, and how have you worked to overcome it?
What hasn’t changed is the better question. My schedule used to be planned out a year or two in advance and now everything is changing all the time. The biggest challenge for me was moving all of our Yoga Medicine scheduled trainings online. I was unsure about it and overwhelmed at the idea at first, but it’s been really well received. People love having the content online to do at their own pace and come back to anytime. Our students get to save a lot of money that they would have spent traveling to trainings with us. We get to reach a broader market that wouldn’t otherwise have access to travel to and attend trainings.
What are some of your tips to stay focused? Especially now.
Having a schedule is key for me. Having cozy workspaces around my house, even just small nooks or chairs. Keeping the house tidy is important for my mental clarity. I’m a smell oriented person so I love essential oils- some of my favorites for focus are sandalwood, geranium, lime, frankincense, ylang ylang, wild orange and spruce. I do afternoon meditations when my brain goes fuzzy.
Do you prefer to workout in the morning or evening?
I used to be morning only but I’ve become more of a late morning or early afternoon person these days, now that I can control my schedule a bit more at home. I prefer to use the morning for brain work since I’m most efficient then, usually I’m writing or creating courses or content then. When I feel my brain fading around noon, I start to move.
What is your fitness philosophy?
I feel strongly that exercise you enjoy is important, not only so you stick to it but also in its effects on our musculoskeletal system, physiology and mental health. It should be enjoyable in some way, maybe creative, stretch your limits and be something that makes you feel better. There tends to be this pervasive mentality in the fitness world of having to beat yourself up to get in shape and I just don’t buy into that.
How often do you exercise, and what’s your workout of choice?
I exercise daily, though it doesn’t always feel like a workout. I think that’s important! Usually yoga in some form but I also like to use weights, bands and do all sorts of weird new movements- whatever is inspiring me at the moment. When I go to the gym I’m usually the one doing something strange in the corner. I’m fascinated by the body and love experimenting. Some days it’s just getting outside to go for a run or a hike. My favorite work break from sitting all day is dancing around the house, it’s the best way to get diversity of movement! My commitment is to move and breathe and listen to what my body needs daily, which mostly requires being honest with myself and pushing myself when needed as well.
Can you share a workout that we can try at home with little to no equipment?
Yoga is wonderful for a home practice, my favorite part is that you really don’t need any equipment. Even the props that are used can be swapped out for simple home items like a rolled up towel. I have hundreds of classes online at YogaMedicine.com ranging from 5 minutes to an hour.
If you had to name your healthy diet, what would you call it? Why?
I’ve always been a fan of a simple whole foods nutrition plan, eating a variety of veggies, fruits, whole grains and proteins. Quality over quantity and a variety of nutrients to nourish my cells. I believe food is medicine, which is why I wrote my first book, Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life. I wrote it as a resource for my clients and students to take their healthcare into their own hands with nutrition, yoga, home remedies and simple but powerful resources.
Has it been hard to stay on track with your nutrition while in quarantine?
I definitely fell off a cliff at the beginning. We were drinking and indulging a lot for the first couple months. There was so much stress and uncertainty. Then we just hit a wall and did a total 180. We did an intensive version of my 30 day detox in my book and turned it around. Thank god! It’s amazing how much your food and routines change your happiness and appreciation of life, much less your mental focus and physical well being
What’s your go-to breakfast?
A green smoothie for sure! I love getting in some good veggies, fats and vitamins and minerals early in the day. That’s a requirement for me, I need sustainable energy and nutrients for a busy day ahead so I can be focused and efficient.
What’s the one food you always have in your fridge?
Avocado. It’s such a great food and gives me sustainable energy for my day. There’s so many tasty ways to eat or incorporate it, from garnish (guacamole or sprinkled on top of a dish) to entree (stuffed avocado) to dessert (avocado mousse). I add a bit of it to just about everything to make sure I’m getting plenty of healthy fats.
Your favorite food indulgence?
There’s so much incredible food here in Seattle so finding someplace new or cooking something fun at home. I love finding great recipes online. Just whipped this Marinated Peanut Tempeh up today, so tasty!
Other than water, what do you sip regularly?
I love sparkling concoctions. Grab some herbs from the garden (I love thyme, mint, lavender, sage or rosemary), squeeze half a lemon or lime, and add sparkling water. You can also add stevia drops or muddle a few frozen blackberries or raspberries in there for an extra treat.
What’s your go-to tool for managing stress?
I love my work but there’s never a shortage of things to do and decisions to make. And when I have down time I often start brainstorming new projects, which doesn’t help. But I’ve learned that I really thrive when I’m creating so I like a bit of busyness. My favorite stress buster when I’m short on time is pranayama, which refers to the breathing exercises in yoga. These are such a quick efficient way to halt the release of stress hormones in the body. Just a couple minutes and I’m ready to go. My favorite when I need both energy and calm is a 4 count inhale, 7 counts to hold it in and 8 counts to exhale. You can count faster or slower to suit your breath in the moment but keep the count steady like a metronome. 3 to 5 rounds is usually just right but you can do more if needed. Meditation is more of my long term strategy, though if you have a regular practice, something simple like just noticing your breath for a few moments can also be a quick fix. The key is noticing when the stress kicks in and halting it in its tracks.
How do you express and spread love?
I think love is in the moments we lean in to listen or share with someone we care about- it’s our empathy, our time, our energy. My husband and I are very tactile so we love long hugs and snuggling together. Those moments are so valuable for me, they recharge my soul.
What is your evening routine to wind down at the end of the day?
Making dinner with my husband. We usually work from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and then draw a hard line after that. We put our work away and cook. We love to wind down by giving each other foot massages, or sometimes just watching a movie or show. Then we head to bed pretty early for a good night sleep, which is essential to all the rest of it.