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Chinese Medicine

How do Traditional Chinese Medicine and Yoga Complement Each Other?

How do Traditional Chinese Medicine and yoga complement each other, and how does it inform you as a yoga teacher?

For me, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) really helps to decode the individual I’m working with. We often talk about it as the root and the branches. The root is someone’s unique individual makeup, their constitution, versus the branches being the symptoms.

Maybe someone has headaches, indigestion & back pain, but underneath it, in Chinese medicine, we’re looking at the root diagnosis of what’s driving those symptoms. I always compare it to a game of Connect The Dots. When someone comes to you as a yoga teacher and they say “I have back pain, what should I do?” I always joke in our trainings that that’s just one dot, it’s just one piece of information that doesn’t tell me that much about the person and what’s really going on.

In some ways it’s harder when teachers leave our trainings because now they have so much information swimming on their head. We can give general things that can be generally helpful, but without knowing someone, without getting more dots, I don’t really know who this person is to build or draw the picture of what’s going on and what might be most helpful to them as a whole person.

For instance, you might have 20 people coming with headaches in Chinese medicine, but will potentially have a different cause and a different approach needed. With headaches, some people find inversions make their headaches better, some find that makes it terribly worse. Some find that movement helps or makes it worse. There are so many things to adjust.

Rather than starting from scratch and trying all of those options, I can collect information from the person and sketch a picture in my head to support them more uniquely & three dimensionally.

Then of course, like anything, I have to start to move forward and, err on the safer side so that I don’t make things worse, experiment and see what helps. Even the best theory, whether that’s western medicine or eastern medicine, still has to be tested out. Not everyone’s going to respond in a perfect way.

The great thing about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that the meridians tie into this to give us more physical access points to work with in the practice and the asana. It’s really helpful.

I feel like for those in yoga, so many of the yogic books are a great reference for “do this for headaches or do this for this.” But it’s not that straightforward, so I really like teaching yoga teachers how to decode and individualize their work to the student in front of them to make what they do really potent.

Learn more in Tiffany’s episode of The Yogapedia Podcast!

Gold with Jeanette Schneider Podcast Interview: The Whole Person with Tiffany Cruikshank

Jeanette Schneider interviews Tiffany Cruikshank for the Gold with Jeanette Schneider Podcast.

In this episode, Tiffany discusses Chinese Medicine, the idea of bringing the whole person into balance to allow the body to be more resilient, and how yoga can be a great tool for teens as well as adults to combat stress and support both our mental health and our hormones. 

Click here to listen to the full episode.

Balancing Act

Why are yoga and tai chi so beneficial for our bodies and minds? And can anybody really do it? Here are some moves you can try at home.

By Louise Parfitt For Inspire.

It’s easy to avoid exercise and moving a lot when you have arthritis – if you’re in pain, your natural reaction is to be still and quiet.

But it’s a vicious circle. When we move less, our muscles weaken, and this can increase pain. What’s more, many studies have shown that gentle exercise can help the symptoms of arthritis, easing pain and stiffness.

Exercise doesn’t have to be hard though. Both yoga and tai chi have been found to be beneficial for arthritis, improving strength, flexibility and fitness, while also being good for mental health.

“Yoga is a nice, gentle way for people who are scared of exercise to begin to move,” says Silvia Laurenti, senior physiotherapist and yoga therapist at the Minded Institute. “By learning simple movements, people feel empowered and more confident, and conditions, such as depression, might lift a little.”

This is backed up by a study published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience [1]. It found that eight weeks of intensive yoga significantly improved the physical and mental health of people with rheumatoid arthritis, and reduced the severity of depression. It’s something that Lisa Muehlenbein, a Yoga Medicine® Therapeutic Specialist, has experienced herself. “I notice that the pain in my knees and wrists decreases following my yoga practice,” she says.

“This is because yoga gets the synovial fluid flowing in the larger joints, allowing smoother movement and creating a greater range of motion and increased flexibility.”

How Can Yoga Help? 

With osteoarthritis, asanas – which are the physical postures in yoga – can increase strength and flexibility, and help prevent and manage flare ups. They can also be used alongside physiotherapy to aid recovery from a joint replacement.

Similarly, with rheumatoid arthritis, yoga can be used to maintain strength and flexibility when the condition is stable. As muscles are stretched, tension that is caused by lack of movement is also released.

Yoga can also change the way a person experiences the condition. “Pranayama (breathing), mindfulness meditation, restorative poses and relaxation can help manage symptoms of chronic pain,” Laurenti explains.

How Can Tai Chi Help?

Originating in China, tai chi consists of fluid, gentle movements that are slow and relaxed. There are many variations, but a program designed for people with arthritis can be beneficial in reducing stress, improving balance and offering some pain relief.

There is some evidence to suggest that tai chi can improve mobility in the ankles, hips and knees in people with rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s unclear whether it can reduce pain or improve the quality of life for people with the condition.

Pain Relief

A review found aerobic and mind-body exercise (such as tai chi and yoga) to be useful for people with hip and knee osteoarthritis. It also found that mind-body exercise had similar effects to aerobic exercise for pain, with the potential to influence central pain sensitization, sleep disturbance, and mood disorders.

Although yoga and tai chi can be done at home, there are plenty of classes throughout the UK that offer friendship and social support, as well. As a space to get help with your practice. Just getting out to a class can lift your spirits and motivate you to continue with the exercise.

Try These Yoga Moves

Before trying any new exercises, check with your GP or get the advice of a qualified teacher. You can adapt the following postures to suit your body.


Stretches the hips, back and chest, and helps increase flexibility of the neck, shoulders and spine.

  1. If you are able to, start on all fours, with support under the knees and wrists. Alternatively, you can do a similar move from a chair.
  2. Inhale, and drop your tummy towards the mat. Lift your chin and look at the ceiling, dropping your shoulders down.
  3. Exhale, then bring your tummy towards your spine and round your back, like a cat stretching. Drop your head towards the floor.
  4. Repeat five times.


Stretches the trunk, waist and shoulders. This can also be done standing up, if you’re able to.

  1. Sit up tall in a chair. Lengthen your spine upwards, keeping your chin parallel to the floor, and breathe deeply.
  2. Lengthen your arms downwards and imagine energy flowing to your fingertips.
  3. Raise your arms above your head and stretch the body, breathing steadily.
  4. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, if comfortable.


Stretches your legs, quadriceps and calf muscles.

  1. From mountain pose, lower your arms and put your hands on your thighs.
  2. Extend your right knee, lifting up your calf so your leg is parallel to the floor. Flex your right heel, lifting up your toes.
  3. Hold for two breaths, then switch sides. Repeat three times on each leg.

Sensitivity, Yoga, and Mental Health: A Personal Discovery

By Rachel Workman for Yoga Medicine.

Increasing sensitivity is encouraged in the yoga practice. You are invited to tune into subtle engagements, explore energetics, notice thoughts, and experience emotions. It is thought that a continuous practice will increase awareness and sensitivity in all aspects of the human condition so up until recently I had wondered why, after 10 years of dedicated practice, I still felt disconnected from my emotions.

When I began practicing yoga, I was drawn to certain components that were missing from a regular workout regimen. Yoga allowed me to explore something that I had long forgotten — sensitivity. I enjoyed the deep relationship to my physical body that yoga provided, but as others were sharing experiences of emotional release within the practice, I became aware of how long it had been since something had warmed my heart or allowed me to cry. Although I remembered being a sensitive child, I realized as an adult I felt emotionally numb.

What happened to that sensitive kid? How could I feel so disconnected to myself when I was the most connected to my body that I had ever been?

Introducing Nature vs. Nurture

Recently, I found my answer rooted in both the Western and the Eastern world. This summer at the Mental Health and Wellness module with Yoga Medicine, we explored the concepts of nature and nurture. Nature refers to the biology of our genes which can also be thought of as what we inherit and Nurture is the perception that our minds are a “blank slate” and that we are molded by our childhood experiences, lifestyle choices, and our ‘life as a fetus’.

At this training, teachers Valerie Knopik and Diane Malaspina shared that “what makes us who we are” has often been thought of as nature or nurture dichotomy, but when in reality it is a combination of both. Our genetic make up, perceptions, environment, and our sensitivity factor into who we become and how we behave.

Although we are born with a specific genetic code, it can be altered by environmental factors like stress, lifestyle, community, and maternal exposure. The study of these changes that modify our gene expression is called epigenetics.

As I considered our environment’s effects on gene expression, I realized that I may have come to the practice with a genetic predisposition to be sensitive, allowing me to connect to the physical aspects of the practice more readily, but my lack of emotional connection could be a conditioned response to past traumatic events.

Connecting the Past and Present

I grew up in a home that had little tolerance for being emotional. Most of my parent’s time was spent on making ends meet. My dad worked and my mom tried to make what little he made stretch to cover all of our basic necessities. The lack of space for expression of fear, anxiety, worry, and sadness when the outcomes were less than desirable, eventually took a toll on my mother.

When I was 12, she suffered her first nervous breakdown. No longer was she able to cope with life’s challenges. It was intense. The person I had known—the one who had been so good at hiding her anxiety, fear, and worry—was now an emotional wreck. My mother had finally succumbed to the environment where she was not able to openly express her emotions. Instead, she bottled them up and as financial circumstances worsened, she would ultimately break under the pressure.

I believe I was conditioned for that very moment because the years of seeing my mother hold in her emotions prepared me to do the same. Instead of breaking down at the thought of losing her, I became stoic. I became numb. As one break led to another, as one diagnosis was replaced with another…depression, schizophrenia, mania, anxiety… I shut down. This was the only way I knew how to cope with what was happening.

Gaining Clarity

Fast-forward 25 years and I am beginning to see that my mother’s nervous breakdown was a combination of genetics, environment, and sensitivity. Studies show that everyone carries genes that contribute to mental health disorders. Research on epigenomes has proven that environmental factors like stress effect gene expression and that our vulnerability and susceptibility can create a better or for worse outcome. Before my mother’s illness, I had always thought of her as “tough as nails.” Now looking back, I realized she was incredibly sensitive but wasn’t allowed to express herself.

Adapting to Survive

This childhood experience translated into years of creating boundaries to insure that I would not end up like my mother. There were long stints away from home in those early teenage years and as I grew older, I ignored phone calls to avoid her ruminations on past events or worries about the future. Without realizing it, I was reducing my exposure to an environment that I was highly susceptible to. I was living in survival mode.

So, what happens when the dysfunctional environment no longer exists?

Unfortunately, the past experiences that helped me adapt to dysfunction in my youth continued to play out into adulthood. I associated being emotional with my mother’s nervous breakdowns so I thought that if I let myself become emotional, then I would eventually lose control. I learned to be afraid of emotions and the result was to subdue my own and avoid anyone else’s.

Putting It All Together

I lost my mother August 1 st , 2018, six days before I was to attend Yoga Medicine’s myofascial release training. I told no one for fear I might not be able to control my emotions. As the week went by and we worked deeper into the connective tissue, I could no longer ignore the connections emotions have with the tissues of the body. I cried more at that training than I was capable of at her funeral.

Now, after years of practicing and studying yoga, I’m beginning to truly understand why I am so drawn to yoga and its lessons on life. I am slowly rediscovering that sensitive kid I spent years learning how to protect through avoidance. The simplicity and familiarity of the asana and pranayama practices are teaching me how to feel again before I realized that I was missing this capacity. I went to the mental health module expecting to gain insight and affirmations about my mother’s illness. However, I left that training with the fledgling understanding of how her illness affected my own mental health and emotional development as well as influenced the lessons within my yoga practice.

Self Care in Healthcare

By Leah Deutsch for Yoga Medicine®.

As a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology, I took a rather unconventional path to arrive at my healthcare profession. In the UK, the traditional route to a medical degree is a 5-6 year track, however, I diverged from that track with a bachelors degree in law, international travel, and serving on a child protection team before embarking on a graduate entry medical degree. Despite this meandering path, I always knew I wanted to work in obstetrics and gynecology (O&G) because it’s an incredibly diverse specialty where you need the deductive skills of a medic combined with the technical prowess of a surgeon. Add to that a thrill seeking behavior of an adrenaline junkie and you have the perfect O&G doctor!

Acclimating to Stress in the Medical Profession

Although I took time to ensure I was ready to commit to this career path, I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of stress encountered in each day. The thing that you don’t really realize until you are thigh deep is while caring for a generally young and healthy population, anyone can become life threateningly unwell at a moment’s notice. The increasing seniority in women’s care further increases the amount of personal responsibility laid on the shoulders of an O&G doctor. When you add in the impact on personal health, such as the increased risk of breast, gastrointestinal, and prostate cancers 1 from working night shifts and a chronically understaffed system, it sometimes makes you wonder why anyone chooses this career! Don’t get me wrong — when the outcomes are positive it is one of the most rewarding and privileged jobs to have. It’s moments when you are faced with a mum or baby dying or having life-changing outcomes that accumulatively take their toll on a doctor’s mental and physical health.

A Pathway to Burnout

My own journey in O&G involved a few rather traumatic events during the first three years. In my first year, I was involved in two maternal deaths and an intrapartum still birth (babies dying prior to labor is about 3.74 in 1000, while in labor is far rarer around 0.32 in 1000). 4 Sadly, these events are arguably more common than necessary in the developed world. These are healthy women who come into the hospital but either they or their baby died from complications in labor.

During my second year of training, a baby died following a caesarean section I performed. I can still close my eyes and remember trying to hold it together, while suturing the woman’s shaking abdomen as she sobbed beneath me. The case went to the Coroner’s Court and I spent most of my third year of training waiting for my day in court. The verdict was that the medical team was not at fault, but the year of stress and worry had already taken its toll on me. By my fourth year of training, I was waking in the middle of the night, unable to sleep and dreading work. I began to experience a complete lack of connection and in some cases, resentment towards my patients. I had nothing left for the people close to me in my life. I was suffering from burnout.

PTSD within Obstetrics and Gynecology

In my field we have a 30% attrition rate. These are not young and disillusioned medical students having a change of heart, but rather professionals who could be 7-8 years into their careers that ultimately decide their livelihoods are unsustainable.

Professor Pauline Slade from the University of Liverpool has done extensive research into the burnout of healthcare workers. 2 In her 2019 study forthcoming in the British Medical Journal, Professor Slade identified that 1 in 10 O&G doctors suffer from clinical symptoms of PTSD and 1 in 5 from subclinical symptoms. 3 When I first heard that statistic, I needed a moment to let it sink in. I felt a mix of utter sadness that such an incredible percentage of my colleagues are suffering and also experiencing a feeling of inevitability; somehow I was unsurprised given my own experience. I realized this was not ‘feeling a bit stressed’ — this is PTSD!

A Path to Yoga

I first discovered yoga in 2001, though it was not a significant part of my life at that juncture. During medical school yoga grew in prominence as a handy relief from academic stress; but like many, my initial focus was largely on the physical practice. There was no one light bulb moment for me, but a gradual understanding of the deeper self-connection I gained by stepping on the mat. I slowly immersed myself further, not really knowing why but realizing it served to replenish my depleted self.

As I embarked on my career in O&G and began to experience these early symptoms of burnout, I found myself turning more frequently to my yoga practice. It was a kind of lifeline, a moment where I could focus inwards to who I was away from my role as a caregiver and doctor. Eventually, yoga permitted me to cultivate a stillness and a connection to being present for the first time. It didn’t remove the environment I had to work in, but it did create a kind of pause button. It enabled me to see what was important and I started to notice that I was able to curate these moments of presence away from the mat too. I found myself using pranayama and mindfulness techniques while caring for women in labor and I slowly rediscovered a passion in caring for these patients. Incredibly, I found that I began to feel less drained and even more energized with feelings of positivity from being able to connect with my patients when I took a more holistic approach to their care.

Yoga as a Tool for Lifelong Learning

In 2014, I decided to embark on a yoga teacher training due to the inspiration from what I saw yoga was bringing to both my patients and myself. Always the scientist, I felt compelled to understand what was going on at a deeper level with my practice. This was to be something purely for my own personal growth and development, but it ended up shifting my entire perspective. On my return, from a 3-week intensive training, I took steps to negotiate a reduction in my hours at the hospital, meaning I had one day a week, which was reserved entirely for yoga.

Subsequent trainings over the past five years in prenatal yoga, pranayama, and meditation have led to a continued and hopefully life long enquiry in to my practice, widening my focus to include these more subtle benefits alongside my physical yoga practice. By teaching prenatal yoga, I have gained a great personal reward in bringing these tools to women in my community which supplements their care in a very different way than in my role as a doctor.

East Meets West – Addressing the Issues

Historically, the culture fostered by the medical profession has embraced almost a militant-like detachment. Admittedly, this mental functionality serves a valid purpose in the heat of an emergency; however, it does medical professionals a disservice when processing these very real and often traumatic experiences that can manifest into burnout and high attrition rates. In recent years, there has been a gradual movement to support the wellbeing of healthcare workers and a recognition that this antiquated ‘tough it out’ mentality needs to be reworked.

The fact that yoga encompasses moving, breathing, and ‘being’ in a mindful way means to me that yoga is accessible to so many regardless of physical capacities. The use of yoga’s mindfulness tools that activate the parasympathetic nervous system and ease the mind-body disconnect can potentially provide a cheap and accessible source of healing.

Doctors are beginning to advocate for a fundamental change in how we support each other. This is reinforced by research confirming what as health care professionals we already experientially know. A 2018 randomized controlled trial showed a significant reduction in depression, anxiety, and perceived stress scores (63%, 58%, 40% respectively) in workers practicing mindfulness based techniques. 5 These scores were maintained in 3 and 6 months follow ups.

My own personal experience echoes these findings and I know anecdotally that many others feel the same. It is an exciting area of change and I passionately believe that by acknowledging the relevance of this ancient practice in treating modern day symptomatology, we could create a more resilient and compassionate medical workforce. As a society there needs to be more of a discussion in remedying a culture responsible for decades of damage and a shift to caring for the care takers.


1. IARC Monographs Vol 124 group. Carcinogenicity of night shift work. Lancet Oncol 2019; 20: 1058–59.
2. A programme for the prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder in midwifery (POPPY): indications of effectiveness from a feasibility study Slade, P, Sheen, KS, Collinge, S, Butters, J and Spiby, H (2018) A programme for the prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder in midwifery (POPPY): indications of effectiveness from a feasibility study. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 9. ISSN 2000-8198
3. The implications of traumatic work-related perinatal experiences for obstetricians and gynaecologists: findings from the INDIGO study. Paper presented to World Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists June 2019 Professor Pauline Slade, Institute of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool
4. Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (2018) MBRRACE-UK Perinatal Mortality Surveillance Report 2018. Available from: https://www.hqip.org.uk/resource/mbrrace-uk-perinatal-mortality-surveillancereport-2018
5. The Effects of an Online Mindfulness Intervention on Perceived Stress, Depression and Anxiety in a Non-clinical Sample: A Randomised Waitlist Control Trial, D Querstret, M Cropley, C Fife-Schaw INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BEHAVIORAL MEDICINE 23, S54-S55

Oh, My Aching Back! 5 Poses to Relieve Low Back Pain

By Lisa A. Muehlenbein for Yoga Medicine®.

Whether you have been outside raking leaves, playing with the kids (or grandkids!) or if you spent your weekend cheering on your favorite sports team, odds are, you’ve found yourself saying, “Oh, my aching back!” There is good news and bad news. The bad news is you are not alone. Back pain is one of the most common complaints and according to the Mayo Clinic, most of us will experience it. The good news is that relief is available and may not require a trip to your doctor or medications.

While no remedy is a miracle cure for every individual, many people find relief for back pain through yoga. Yoga is a 5,000+ year old practice that originated in India and has been embraced by over 20.4 million Americans. While there are many benefits to practicing yoga, relieving low back pain is one plus that many practitioners have experienced.

The following Restorative Yoga sequence of poses (asanas) are suggestions that may help bring some relief to your low back.

Supported Child’s Pose (Salamba Balasana)


  • Begin with a blanket in a Foundational Fold (fold in ½ vertically, then in ½ horizontally 2x), roughly in the center of the mat. This will provide cushioning for the knees. It’s not required, but most students find it a nice, supportive addition.
  • Kneel on the blanket, bringing the big toes together and sliding the knees apart until they are wide enough to snuggled the short edge of the bolster inside.
  • Slowly begin to lower down onto the bolster from the belly, ribs, heart center and finally the head comes to rest on the bolster, allowing whichever ear is most comfortable to come to rest.
  • Ideally, the head, heart and hips would be in alignment. If the head is lower, another folded blanket may be placed on top to lift the torso slightly.
    Hold 5-8 minutes.
  • Turn the head to the opposite side half way through.


  • Use a Foundational Blanket folded in half or a rolled up mat to create some space in the back of the knee for students who have knee issues.
  • A mat square or hand towel can be rolled and placed on the front side of the ankle if the student is experiencing discomfort.
  • A sandbag can be placed horizontally across on the low back/top of pelvis.

Supported Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyandrasana)


  • Begin with a Foundational blanket in the center of the mat with stripes going left to right across the mat horizontally.
  • Place bolster on the mat, going the same direction as the mat, just in front of the bolster.
  • Use a second Foundational blanket folded in half the long way or in a Long Tri-Fold Blanket as a mini bolster and keep it close by.
  • Sit comfortably on top of the Foundational blanket with one hip up nice and close to the short edge of the bolster.
  • Draw the knees up to roughly 90 degrees and place the second blanket in between the knees, shins and ankles for comfort.
  • Place the hands on either side of the bolster.
  • Inhale to lengthen. With the exhale, gentle twist toward the bolster and slowly lower down, bringing the belly button, last rib and heart center to rest on top of the bolster.
  • Hands and forearms rest on the floor next to the bolster.
  • Same ear (as the hip that is up close to the bolster) resting on the bolster will be a gentler sensation on the neck for most students, while the opposite ear coming to rest will provide a deeper twist and sensation for most students.
    Hold 5-8 minutes, then switch sides.


  • A blanket, block or bolster may be placed under the arm (that is on the same side as the legs) if it is hovering/lifting/not resting flat on the floor.
  • A sandbag can be placed on the top thigh to enhance the twist.

Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)


  • Begin by placing the bolster at the foot of the mat; horizontally spanning the mat from left to right.
  • Place a Foundational Folded blanket on the mat just behind the bolster with the fringed edge on the bottom and toward the bolster to avoid uncomfortable pressure points from the knots on the fringed edge.)
  • Create a Long Rolled Blanket and place it on top of the Foundational blanket with the open edge of the roll toward the corner that was created by the Foundational blanket and the bolster.
  • Position yourself so that you are sitting on top of the bolster with their feet on the floor in front of their mat. Slide all the way to the front edge of the bolster—almost as if you were about to slip off of the front edge—this will leave room for the hips to rest on top of the bolster as you begins to lay back.
  • Place the hands on the Foundational blanket or mat as support as you descend, slowly lowering the shoulders to the mat.
  • The Foundational blanket serves as a cushion for the shoulders, the head is on the mat. The rolled blanket fills the space in the lower/mid back, while the height of the bolster provides a lift of the pelvis creating a release in the lower back.
  • Arms reach wide out to the side; palms face up.
  • Hold 5-8 minutes.


  • A flat hand towel or blanket may be placed underneath the head if there is evidence of discomfort in the neck.
  • Students may extend legs straight for a deeper sensation; however, this variation should be used mindfully for students with low back issues.
  • Blocks can be placed under the soles of the feet if the back is showing signs of “breaking” or sharpness/compression in L5-S1.
  • For students who are managing low back concerns, they may enjoy using a folded blanket under the pelvis in a height that is lower than the bolster.

Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)


  • To get into Legs Up the Wall, sit with one hip all the way up close to the wall and then slide forward toward the long edge of the mat.
  • Place hands next to the hips and slightly behind. Use them for support as you shift and swivel on the hips, bringing the shoulders to the floor, swinging the legs up toward the sky.
  • If the sitting bones are away from the wall, shift and shimmy the hips and walk the shoulders toward the wall until the sitting bones make their way to the wall.
  • Arms can extend wide out to the sides like a “T,” down by the sides or wherever comfortable.
  • Hold 8 minutes. *May also be used as an alternative to Savasana.


  • If hamstrings are too tight to fully extend the legs up the wall, students may opt to take the hamstrings out of the pose by placing the legs on top of a chair. In this case, place a blanket over the seat of the chair for warmth and comfort. Another option would be to stack two bolsters on top of each other instead of using a chair.
  • A blanket with a partial roll may be placed underneath the neck for support.
    If legs tend to roll out to the sides and be unruly or distracting, we may opt for straps around the thighs and mid calves.
    To ground the hips and release the low back, a sandbag may be placed on the soles of the feet. Straps around the legs may also be used in conjunction with the sandbag.
  • To take Legs Up The Wall into more of a Supported Shoulder Stand, we can find the foundational pose of Legs Up The Wall and then slide the feet down the wall, pressing into the wall and lifting the hips high enough to slide the bolster (or folded blanket) underneath the hips.



  • A partially rolled blanket may be placed behind the neck to fill the space between the cervical spine and the floor. The remaining flat portion of the blanket would provide a soft cushion underneath the back of the head.
  • A blanket roll may be placed behind the knees instead of a bolster with the optional additional blanket roll underneath the ankles.
  • Legs can drape over a bolster with the option of a rolled blanket underneath the ankles.
  • Legs on a chair.
  • Add an eye pillow.
  • Add essential oil temple to deepen relaxation.

The sequence of yoga poses described are suggested for use to relieve low back discomfort and are therapeutic and restorative in nature. When exploring your options for yoga classes, it is important to educate yourself before entering into a yoga studio and unrolling your mat.

  • If your lower back is in need of TLC and you have never done yoga before, look for classes that list Gentle, Restorative or Therapeutic in their names.
  • Upon meeting your teacher, be sure to inform them of any injuries or health issues you may have so that they are able to specifically address your needs.
  • With Restorative Yoga, it’s important to remember that less is often more. These poses are meant to relax and restore the body with minimal effort, so give your body permission to do so!

Finally, when you decide to venture into a yoga studio, don’t be intimidated! Studios are used to seeing new faces each day, and you can be sure that you won’t be the only one! Plus, the staff and teachers are there to help and they want you to have the best experience possible. Their intention is that you leave feeling well, healthy and ready to take on the day!

Balancing Yin and Yang for the Fall

At the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the belief that we are a reflection of the world around us. Each season is marked by characteristics that can be seen in ourselves and in the natural environment. Grief is the emotion tied to the fall, and it makes perfect sense. The green, thriving landscape changes almost imperceptibly at first – a shift in the wind and a few leaves down. The transition becomes much more obvious when the leaves change and the air grows cooler. Without death life cannot exist. Fall marks the end of growth and renewal, and the beginning of harvest season – a time for our bodies to gather energy for the months ahead.

We are approaching a Yin time of year. In Traditional Chinese Medicine fall is associated with the Metal element. This is a time to become more introspective and organized; a time to protect boundaries and guard what we hold sacred. Carefree days of summer are followed by the need for routine and structure. We become a little more introspective. If you’re feeling the need to stay home and turn down invitations, you’re not alone. This is the perfect time of year to tend to unfinished projects, and to begin organizing your life. This is also a great time to deepen your home practice.

The Lung and Large Intestine are the internal organs related to fall and the Metal element. Taking in and letting go are characteristics of these organs. The sequence below offers a balance of Yin & Yang. It targets the Lung and Large Intestine meridian lines, which are like rivers or tributaries that flow through the body. *Note – The Lung and Large Intestine meridians flow primarily through the arms. Practice the poses below to celebrate this season and welcome change in your body.

1. Supported Fish Pose


Place a blanket roll or bolster set perpendicularly beneath the rib cage. Allow the body to relax into the support beneath it. Breathe fully but keep the ribs and chest soft and easy. Count to 5 on the inhale, 5 on the exhale. After 3-5 rounds insert a small pause at the very top of the inhale. Repeat several rounds.

2. Sukhasana to Side Bend to Twist Flow

Link breath and movement, lifting/lengthening on the inhale and transitioning/twisting on the exhale.

3. Cat/Cow

Move through 5-8 rounds, then add side to side movements to bring awareness to the rib cage.

4. Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Add arm circles and move in time with your breath.

5. Downward Facing Dog to Plank to Side Plank Flow

Move between these three poses with the breath. Lead with the chest and let your arms, shoulders, and core support you.

6. Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Hook thumbs or interlace fingers behind your back. Draw the shoulder blades toward each other and lengthen your arms. Lift the sternum and upper ribs away from the floor. Soften and then repeat.

7. Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge)

Knit the ribs in and reach through the fingertips. Lift gently as you breathe in, ground as you breathe out.

8. Low Lunge Twist

Bend and lengthen top arm in time with the breath.

9. Puppy Pose

For more, bend the elbows and bring the hands together behind the neck. Find stillness for several deep breaths.

10. Savasana

Place a folded blanket over your chest. Allow the arms to lengthen along your sides. Imagine lines from the center of your chest out to each thumb and index finger. Notice any sensation, pulsation, or change in temperature here.

Bent Over Wellness Podcast Interview

Isidora Romantini interviews Tiffany Cruikshank for her Bent Over Wellness Podcast.

This episode discusses Tiffany’s work with both the Yoga Medicine Seva Foundation and her Yoga Teacher Training Programs, along with her views on what she feels is important to include in trainings, how she has incorporated the practice of Chinese Medicine into yoga, and how she practices her own self care.

Click here to listen to the Bent Over Wellness Podcast with Tiffany.

Make Like a Tree: 7 Steps to Balance Your Body this Fall

Megan Kearney for Yoga Digest shares the perfect routine of yoga for fall. Find balance in the transition from summer to winter with these insights from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

As the sun starts to set faster and fold into cooler nights, we begin to see the trees, once working hard to acquire energy from the sun, release and let go of their leaves. Autumn is definitely a time for taking in and letting go.

So too is our internal nature. We may find ourselves appreciating our hard efforts and passionate pursuits, even enjoying the fruits of our labor, as we move towards more of a harvesting time of year.

Traditional Chinese Medicine & Fall

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient practice that supports health and wellness, and believes in harmony between the opposing complementary forces of yin and yang. TCM also believes that the human body is a microcosm of the expansive universe around us. The five elements that appear in nature (fire, earth, wood, metal and water) also appear within us and represent all manners of life and explain the function of the body and how it changes during dis-ease. In TCM, disease is a result of an imbalance between yin and yang, and fluctuation of energy within the five elements. This vital energy that flows through the body is known as qi (CHI) and performs multiple functions in the body and helps maintain health.

Each season corresponds with an element, just as we have different seasons in our own lives. This time of year is defined by the metal element and the meridians of lung and large intestine. This is a time to literally draw in a breath of fresh air — called “grasping the qi of the heavens” — and find inspiration in our daily living, create healthy boundaries and firm schedules for meet our need for routine and ritual.

When the energy movement through the meridians of the lung and large intestine is imbalanced, we might be especially rigid or stuck to a particular way of doing things. We might be socially cut off or extremely judgmental of others and their decisions. And you might be seen as a perfectionist or a rather dogmatic individual. Of course, there is the extreme imbalance — where one is sloppy with their work and places very little value in their work. We might find ourselves sick often, struggling with upper respiratory issues, allergies and just an overall poor immune system.

1.) Breath work:

Laying on your back, place your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your chest. Breathe into your belly, feeling the right hand rise and then spilling over into the left hand. Exhale from the left hand and then the right hand at the belly. If you are used to another way, do what feels comfortable and be consistent. Breathe for 2-4 minutes.

2.) Supine pec roll:

Using a yoga blanket, roll your blanket long ways and then lay over the blanket, matching your spine over the yoga blanket. You can use a second blanket at the neck to support your cervical spine. Allow your arms to open out to cactus arms even overhead holding your elbows. Relax for 5 minutes.

3.) Cat pulling its tail:

Lay on your right side. Scissor your legs with your left leg forward and your right leg back. Sweep open your left arm and reach back and grab your bent right leg around the ankle. If available, grab your left foot with your right hand. Slowly lower your left shoulder to the mat. Hold for 2-4 minutes. Switch sides.

4.) Reverse tabletop:

Sitting upright, place your hands behind you and plant your feet hip distance apart, knees bent. Push through the hands and puff the chest, bringing the shoulder blades onto the back. Gently lift the hips into the letter “M” or higher into a reverse tabletop. Hold for 5-7 breaths.

5.) Supine gomukhasana arms:

Lying on your back, take your right hand behind your head, holding the nape of the neck or even placing your hand palm up between the shoulder blades. Roll to your right, tucking the left arm behind you at the lower back or as high as the shoulder blades, palm facing down. Feel free to bind if it is comfortable. Roll back to your back and relax over your hands. Relax for 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side.

6.) Contemplate something bigger than yourself:

Get outside and seek inspiration from the natural world. Balance your daily routine of the mundane with some moments of walking in nature appreciating the bigger picture.

7.) R-E-S-P-E-C-T:

Respect YOURSELF! Let go of your imperfections, let go of the things that no longer serve you, and focus on a life without regrets or complaints. This will require working to accept fear and vulnerability. Be bold, be brave! People with integrity live with curiosity and courage over comfort and complacency. Create a mantra or positive affirmation and practice reading it in the mirror daily.

These are just a few steps to help you balance your qi this fall, to see your own fantastic value, and to encourage you to hold on to the things you need and let go of the rest.

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