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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.

Enslaved But Not Broken

By Alis Atagan for Swaay.

Yoga as Medicine – For the World

By 24Life.

3 Reasons to Give: Tiffany Cruikshank on the Power of Giving

By Kirra Bixby & Mackenzie McDonald for KiraGrace.com.

How to Break the Cycle of Human Trafficking

Tiffany Cruikshank discusses what motivated her to create the Yoga Medicine® Seva Foundation to fight human trafficking in India.

By Frank Shatz for The Virginia Gazette.

The background story behind the Yoga Medicine® Seva Foundation.

Ethical Yoga Brands That Make Seriously Amaze Clothes

Anna Redko for Peaceful Dumpling shares a roundup of 10 ethical yoga brands. Her list includes Tiffany Cruikshank’s collaboration with Liquido. Check out these brands that are environmentally conscious, and give back to their communities.

10 Ethical Yoga Brands That Give Back & Make Seriously Amaze Clothes (Yaaas)

It’s easy to assume that yoga brands must be ethical in their practices. I mean ahimsa, right? Unfortunately, in reality, that is not always the case. There has been a rising number of activewear and yoga brands that are taking note. These brands are including social corporate responsibility in their efforts to appeal to customer values, which is great news. However, they wouldn’t have taken notice if people were not supporting smaller brands and/or start-ups that are authentically focusing their efforts on ethical business practices by supporting communities and smaller manufacturing facilities that take care of their people whether that is in the U.S.A. or in a developing country.

On the environmental front: yoga leggings, of course, contain polyester, which leeches tiny microplastic fibers into the oceans every time you wash them. So what’s an eco-conscious yogi to do? Not do naked yoga, of course (unless that’s your thing, gah!). Here at PD, we suggest you look for brands that try to minimize the damage by using recycled materials and otherwise giving back to the cause.

So, here is a list of ten activewear and yoga brands that are making positive changes in the fashion industry while producing high-quality yoga-wear you will fall in love with.

Click here to browse the selection of 10 ethical yoga brands.

Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham: Feature by NativeSociety

Yoga Medicine is proud to share a feature on one of our assistant teachers, Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham, by Native Society. Native Society connects aspiration readers with inspirational content, and we couldn’t agree more that Amanda is a motivational resource on our team! We hope you enjoy reading this article.

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Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham: Yoga Medicine Instructor & Co-Owner of Soul Yoga+Wellness

Teacher, philanthropist, wife, dog mama and business owner, Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham has been practicing and teaching yoga for a combined 15 years. Since graduating from Kent State University in 2007, Amanda has been traveling the world and studying with master yoga teachers including Tiffany Cruikshank, Christina Sell, Noah Maźe and Seane Corn. When Amanda is not in the studio, she’s combining her love of business and wellbeing as the Media and Marketing Manager for an integrative dermatologist in South Carolina, serving victims of human trafficking in India through her role as a coordinator for Yoga Medicine’s Seva project, and owner of From Hand to Heart, an online fair trade shop. In addition to her teaching, marketing and philanthropic activities, Amanda founded Full Body Fitness & Yoga in 2012 and in 2013 her studio was rated one of Northern Kentucky’s Best places to practice.

What do you do best?

We {Yoga Medicine by Tiffany Cruikshank} are raising the bar. In an industry full of lunch-break teacher trainings, we are asking our trainees to not only hit the bar, but to exceed it. Through vigorous modular trainings complete with end-of-course testing, anatomical based focal points, mandatory case studies, community engagement, national research and global outreach, we are diligently working to merge eastern and western modalities to output educated teachers and empowered communities.

As a 500-hour Yoga Medicine trained instructor, I personally bring those values into my studio, Soul Yoga + Wellness, in addition to my teachings. I am not an instructor prioritizing feeling good, but making it important my students are simply able to feel. I’m afraid we’ve come to a place where feelings or emotions are masked by business. I want my students to understand the mind/body connection, dropping deep within to explore the sensations and possibility of body + mind. My goal is to raise your awareness and my hope is that, within the space of exploration, my students gain the ability to achieve healthier, happier lives.

What makes you the best?

amandabyogavirasanaEnlightenment might be our yogic goal but it’s the journey and what we learn along the way that constructs our worth. We are not the best, nor am I. But as long as we authentically strive to better ourselves, and our communities, then we can be proud to say we are serving our purpose.

Yoga Medicine has been in constant growth for many years and, just as our families and businesses encounter growing pains, so does Yoga Medicine. I am honored to be a part of a team that is building a supportive web of educated, passionate and driven individuals. We evolve as we go, so that every ping along the way is simply a lesson, projecting us farther on our path and closer to our goal.

In my classes I try to exemplify authenticity. Whether a dark moment or light, good day or bad, I will bring it to the table. I do so as a means of linking, connection. We all have our own struggles and triumphs; I think it would be a pity not to share those moments with others. My hope is that through my transparency, a student finds their strength.

In my personal life, I have achieved a lot. And I’m continuing to learn that that statement is not arrogant, but a validation of self-worth. At 31, I own my second yoga studio and third business. I have traveled to 40 countries, raised thousands to fight for human rights, operate Yoga Medicine’s non-profit, the Seva Foundation and continue to better myself through higher education. I am the best version of myself, striving to live a full and purposeful life. When there is a will, there is a way and I ALWAYS find the way.

What are your aspirations?

Yoga Medicine has aspirations to bond the medical world with the yoga industry in a way that heals, empowers and connects. Our mission is to create an international resource of instructors with a depth of knowledge who support healthcare systems around the globe. Our goal is not to replace the provider, but to help people find a practice that can act as a therapeutic adjunct to traditional medical care.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed daydreaming about all the things I want to accomplish; places I want to travel, subjects I want to learn, books I want to read. It begins to feel as if time is speeding and there’s no one on patrol. But, then I pause, realizing the very notion of aspiration is an adjective of being fully alive. The want to survive and evolve is the driving force of life. Be happy you have aspirations – it means you are living!

Personally, I want my family and loved ones to be healthy & happy. Professionally, I want to make a lasting difference in the lives of others. And for my business, I hope we hold space for others to find a deeper meaning in their being.

amandabyogadhurasanaBiggest Success?

Always following my heart.

Most Challenging Moment?

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

We all experience woes in the course of our lifetime. I really do believe each struggle or challenge is an opportunity for growth or understanding. During the struggle it feels impossible to see the reasoning. For me, even if it took years to see, the light appears.

My most challenging moments have been struggling with panic attacks, my inconceivable fear of flying, overcoming parts of my past, realizing the dark parts of myself, letting go of toxic relationships, body image, heartbreaks, losing loved ones and coming to terms with the fact not everyone who loves me will agree with what I do.

Motto?

In all the chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.

When things are array or don’t seem to make sense, this settles me.

Favorite People/Role Models?

I like to think I turn to spirit as my guide. The universe is quite a cosmic explosion of information and I have to believe there must be a deeper sense of understanding out there. Sometimes a simple walk through the forest or on the coast can be role model enough.

As far as people go, I had the privilege of attending the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum on behalf of our Seva Project, where 2014’s Laureate Kailash Satyarthi led the 3-day discussion. Transitioning from a wealthy businessman in the Indian caste system to full-time children’s rights activist simply because he believed his selfless service would better the world, well, that right there is the model of all roles.

I tend to be attracted to those who follow their passions. Whether it be a stay at home mom, an activist or an astronaut – when a person is listening to their little heart beat, I’m captivated.

Favorite Places/Destinations?

7 years of travel, 40 countries and 2 trans-oceanic boat crossings, you’ve got a travel-junkie on your hands. Tortola, BVI will always keep a part of my heart. Having lived there for over a year, I fell in love with the simple island life and beautiful coastal feel.

In 2011 I had the honor of traveling to Nuku Hiva, an island in the French Polynesian chain. You can only arrive by boat so the island is primitive and pristine. We explored barefoot, finding waterfalls, wild horses, indigenous tribes and local children. The entire experience still gives me tingles.

And to list a few favorites, in no specific order, Kolkata, Koh Samui, Cape Town, Fuerteventura and Colonia Del Sacramento.

Favorite Products/Objects?

I lived and worked aboard a vessel for nearly 7 years after college. We could only bring with us what could fit into a one suitcase. I learned an invaluable lesson those years, no product or object was needed to survive or feel happiness. Less, really, is more.

If I had to pick a tangible object, I’d go with my Jade yoga mat and my Mac laptop. Can my puppy fall into this category? If yes, then definitely my rescue, Teddy. 

Current Passions?

Always travel. Currently our Seva Project.

In 2015 Yoga Medicine raised $45,000 supporting 15 street-kid shelters across Kolkata, housing over 525 survivors. I had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in India learning about the human-trafficking trade and visiting the children housed in those shelters. From the squatters in Africa to the slums of Argentina, poverty is not new to me. The more I’ve seen, the less shaken I’ve become by its sight. Kolkata is certainly on a different level than the rest, probably because its population is so vast. But, it wasn’t the impoverished extremes that impressed me – it was their joy.

Since our project launch in 2015, I have become the Seva Coordinator within Yoga Medicine. We are working to create our our own internal programming to ensure a long lasting, beneficial relationship with the NGOs we work with on the ground, and the children that need our support. In 2017, our goal is to raise $100,000 to support Rescue Foundation’s newest shelter in a village outside of New Delhi. These girls not only need a roof above their head, they need a tangible example of love, support and empowerment. We strongly believe in vocational education for the girls, ending the vicious cycle of the sex trade. Our donations are used for their healthcare, mental rehabilitation, vocational education, and basic human needs such as water, food and shelter.

Why India?

A question I’m asked frequently and dumbfounded by – Why India?  I always find it hard to articulate my answer.

Some go through life never coming to terms with the path their heart’s been telling them to follow. Some hear it yet choose to ignore it. Others can’t do anything else but listen to it. I fall into the last category. I hear my heart loud and clear. When I listen, and then ultimately follow its lead, I feel alive and right.

Mostly, I choose India because my heart’s been telling me to for many years. But, when a helpless child full of innocence and unconditional love wraps their arms around you; you no longer have a choice. You have a mission.

Whether it be India or replace the blank with any other location on the globe, I travel so that my mind can expand to depths which are unreachable on our home turf. 28 million slaves are being held captive today in almost every country in the world. More slaves now than ever before in history. Mostly children. So I ask them back, Why not India?

Visit the online article here.

Yoga Prison Outreach Programming

Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham shares her story of bringing yoga to the Western Kentucky Correctional Facility and the rewards of touching the lives of female prisoners.

Yoga in Prison

I reached out to the Western Kentucky Correctional Facility to see if they’d be interested in offering yoga to their inmates. It’s been something I’ve wanted to offer for some time and since my recent travels had me in KY, the stars seemed to align.

Turns out the warden had been looking for local instructors but to no prevail. Western Kentucky is remote; the closest, largest cities (Nashville and St. Louis) are 3 hours away. The inmates had requested yoga as they came across a DVD many months ago and enjoyed both the physical and calming aspects of the practice.

This facility, also known as the Prison Farm, houses both men and women.  This is rare, as both sexes are not usually kept on the same grounds. It’s home to over 450 inmates, a 1000% increase over 20 years. Phones, cameras and props are not allowed in the facility, so we just had our mats and ourselves. A good reminder of what’s important.

I believe as yoga teachers we are here to serve, to share our teachings to all, without judgment. I always knew this but I believed it when we {Yoga Medicine} travelled to India for our Seva project this past December. India solidified my passion to give and to serve without expectation. We had the opportunity to visit Mother Theresa’s tomb whilst in Kolkata. She spent her entire life giving, dedicated to making this life better for others. I was humbled by the encompassing aura. For the first time, I understood that being a teacher was a gift. A gift to share with those who need it most.

Sharing the Gift of Yoga

The women and children in India were empty of things yet full in life. The women in prison shared this strong similarity.

I felt passionate about giving these inmates, probably for the first time ever, a space to become aware of their bodies and minds. It was important to me to offer them choices. To empower them by asking them to drop within and to feel, to choose. These women had their power of choice taken from them inside these walls. Some of the women had never felt strength, confidence or control. Some had never learned to love their bodies, or been given love.

A woman about 45 asked me why I wanted to come and teach them. She said “most think we are rapists or murders, they don’t care about us. But, we’re all good women who have made a few bad choices”.  Another woman, age 28 and serving the last few months of her decade sentence, was in tears after I assisted her into king pigeon pose. “I’ve been trying to get into that pose for 3 years, you’re the first instructor I’ve ever had.”

These women desperately wanted information to improve themselves. Mutually grateful for the experience, we parted ways feeling a new purpose. Everyone deserves the opportunity to explore their own depths. I was honoured to open that door for them. If you’re in the Western Kentucky area and are interested in picking up where I left off, please contact me at seva@yogamedicine.com.

Amanda is a Yoga Medicine assistant – click here to learn more about her.

India Seva: Charities Empowering Girls and Women

India Seva Project participant Katja shares her personal experience in Kolkata and how charities empowering girls and women are enacting lasting social change. Katja’s moving essay highlights the importance of economic & educational empowerment. She details the various ways the funds we raised are supporting the women and children rescued from sex trafficking and other human rights abuse.

Katja’s article is a reminder that we have the opportunity to leave a profound impact on these communities. For more information about our #indiasevaproject, please visit the India Seva page.

Communities Empowering Communities

“What struck me about vitising the shelters in Kolkata, was that I felt empowered too. From feeling like “this is all too much” and “what can I do?” – I ended up feeling more powerful than I ever have.”

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To read the full article, click here.

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