Yoga Instructor Tiffany Cruikshank: East Meets West
Tiffany Cruikshank is one of the best-known names in the world of yoga, and for good reason – she’s been doing it since she was 14 years old and it’s been her life’s passion. For the last five years Tiffany has been the acupuncturist at the Nike World Headquarters, as well as a yoga teacher. Her love of both yoga and Chinese Medicine is one of the things that makes her such a unique instructor.
Even though Tiffany started young, finding the right path was still a journey. Before she found yoga Tiffany studied dance, was a middle-distance runner, and a competitive tennis player. But, according to her, none of them were the right fit.
The thing I guess I was most competitive in was tennis. I got really into it pretty quickly and traveled all over for tournaments, was quickly ranked at the top of the age group above me in the southwest United States. I loved it but I was so hard on myself and as my dad would say, I had no mental game. After games I lost I was so hard on myself, and what I did wrong. After I won I would feel bad for the person who lost, knowing how they must be feeling. I needed yoga. Then when I found yoga at 14 that was pretty much it for me. Since then the only thing I’ve done consistently is yoga. I started out practicing a couple times a week and within the first year progressed to a daily practice and have been dedicated to it ever since.
It was at the age of 14 Tiffany also began her journey into the world of holistic and Chinese medicine:
My journey into holistic health began when I was 14 as well. I was a bit of a troublemaker, so my parents sent me off to a wilderness program. One of my guides was an herbalist and he would take me on plant walks and teach me about herbal medicine. I was so inspired and empowered by it; it was like it was instantly a part of me, I knew it would be something I would take with me forever. After that I started researching different types of holistic medicine, found Chinese Medicine, and loved the philosophy. I loved that it treated the person as a whole rather than just treating symptoms. I apprenticed with an acupuncturist in my teens and knew instantly that was what I would be doing. Then I just had to finish my pre-med degree and Chinese Medicine school. Patience was never my virtue.
Combining her passion for yoga and her love of eastern medicine has allowed Tiffany to be the kind of teacher and healthcare provider many athletes dream about finding - a yoga teacher who understands anatomy, a Chinese Medicine expert who understands athletes and sports.
I combine the best of east and west to create an effective approach to musculoskeletal issues. I love anatomy and sports medicine so you see a lot of this in my 500-hour teacher training - how to look at the body and see dysfunction and how to create individualized therapeutic practices for any level, but especially for vinyasa practitioners. I think people forget that a therapeutic practice isn’t just for the elderly or the injured; it’s for optimizing the experience for anyone.
The trickiest thing, at least with the elite athletes I work with, is the fact that nowadays competitive sports basically ask us to test how far we can push our bodies without breaking them. So it’s constantly a process. In Chinese Medicine it’s all about balance, but that’s hard to translate into competitive sports. If you can find even a hint of this and learn to work with your body it will make your training that much stronger and your recovery that much easier.
Building balance has been something Tiffany has pursued throughout her yoga career, both for herself and for her students - finding her personal path, while keeping a healthy balance. When it comes to which style of yoga to practice, Tiffany advocates everyone else approach it from a personalized perspective, as well:
I would say Vinyasa is my favorite style and what I teach. I did Ashtanga for many years, but at some point I found for me personally that it became really limiting and almost toxic for my body. It made me really strong, but in a really imbalanced way, but I loved the lineage and the sacred aspect of that style. I love Vinyasa now because it can be whatever I want/need to be for me that day - if I need a more therapeutic practice or invigorating or whatever then I do that. It seems silly to me now that we would all do the same progression of postures everyday, it’s such a personalized practice for me and that’s a lot of what I teach in my teacher trainings. Not that there’s not a place for the styles with a set sequence, that’s the beauty of yoga, there’s something for everyone and that can change as you change.
Tiffany’s Five Tips for the Athlete:
- Yoga, yoga yoga!! By far the most important. At least twice a week even if it’s just for 30 minutes. I have a bunch of short classes for athletes online that my students/patients find really helpful. I have classes for specific sports or for injury prevention, etc. You can check it out at YogaGlo.com. There’s a reason why so many professional athletes are using yoga now, they know just how much it helps their performance & recovery.
- Having an acupuncturist, massage therapist, and/or chiropractor who you like is important. It’s always better to go in sooner rather than later, especially as an athlete. The pro-athletes have people working on them daily, to fine tune the machine they call their body, and it pays off.
- Food is medicine. Pay attention to what you feed your body. Food is meant to provide all the nutrients we need to heal & repair not just to fill our belly. Be mindful.
- Meditate. I find this perplexes athletes at first, but they end up loving it more than anyone. Meditation is basically training you to be in the zone and as an athlete this is essential. Try just sitting upright comfortably for 10 minutes, just watching the breath. Let yourself be absorbed in the process.
- Rest. This one is easy to forget as an athlete but some down time is just as crucial as the training, our bodies need time to recover and heal.
For more information on Tiffany, visit her website - Tiffanyyoga.com.