Living in the Spotlight
The studio is a beehive of motion as everyone prepares for the day’s shoot. The camera flashes as it is tested and adjusted, eye shadow pallets and rogues shimmer on the surface of the dressing room, and steam dances around the newest KiraGrace collection as it refreshes the gorgeous fabrics after an evening of travel. Despite the action in the room, the hushed softness of the morning is preserved as each member of the team focuses on their specialized task at hand.
Without warning, the quiet dissolves as the sounds of a tinkling bell and tiny feet rush down the hallway. “Lulu, go say hi to Kira!,” we hear at the same moment Lulu, Tiffany Cruikshank’s infamous and adorable little dog, flies around the corner like a fluffy snowball. She bounds toward Kira Karmazin, founder of KiraGrace, as Tiffany walks through the door laughing. She looks like a bohemian beach queen in flip flops and sun-kissed skin from a winter beneath the hot Australian sun. Her spunk and spirit immediately set the entire room aglow with excitement. Introductions and greetings are warmly exchanged, and then Tiffany is whisked away to the dressing room as everyone else buzzes around with the final prep-work. The following is an exclusive, intimate interview with Tiffany Cruikshank as she sat in the dressing room with hot rollers in her hair, getting dolled up for a day in the spotlight:
KiraGrace: If we’re sitting here a year from now and we’re celebrating what an incredible year it has been for you, what have you achieved?
Tiffany: Well I think the really big thing for me this year is that I’m re-branding under Yoga Medicine and trying to create a platform to keep a layer of respect within the yoga teaching field. There’s so many teachers coming out now and so many teacher trainings, and there’s some standardization but it’s really hard to know what you’re getting... What I’m trying to do is create a layer of respect within the teacher community, to educate teachers on not just yoga but the Western side of things, like the anatomy, so that doctors can have a place to refer patients and students can have a platform to go online and find a teacher that has the ability to really understand what’s going on with them in a very physical and more medical sense and be able to integrate that with the yoga. Under the Yoga Medicine platform I’m training up a bunch of teachers to help me train and create this community that really excel in teaching in a way that can provide that. To me yoga is a form of medicine and you can approach it in so many different ways and styles... but no matter how you look at it – whether you approach it just for exercise or for a spiritual or medical [purpose] – it’s very much a form of medicine to me.
KG: How did you get into the field of holistic health?
Tiffany: I have my undergrad in Medicinal Plant Biology, Nutrition, Pre-Med, and I have my Masters in Acupuncture & Chinese medicine and a specialty in sports medicine. I’ve treated over 25,000 patients over the past decade.
KG: What do you think is one of the primary health issues in this present age?
Tiffany: For me in my job, most of what I see is pain. Even most doctors [would agree] I think, that back pain is number one... because most of us sit in chairs for the majority of the day... I love the tradition of yoga, but for so long now [these teachings have been] passed down in a cookie cutter form – You have hypertension? Do this. You have back pain? Do this. – instead of really putting together all the things that we know now about anatomy... To be able to acknowledge the past and learn from what we know presently is so powerful. A lot of my background is in anatomy & sports medicine, and the orthopedic side of things.
KG: Have you always had a passion for health and medicine?
Tiffany: Ever since I was 14. I was a troublemaker and my parents sent me on a wilderness program, a get-you-into-shape kind of thing. I was in the wilderness for a couple of months just forging and hiking... One of my guides was an herbalist. I just felt really drawn to it, so he would take me out on plant walks and teach me. [Learning] how to survive as a teenager is really powerful as a woman. As a girl you’re so uncomfortable with your body, so for me it was really powerful. And then also learning how to help people and how to heal… I went home and from there on I started apprenticing with an herbalist and soon after an acupuncturist. I just loved it. That was about when I found yoga, too, so for me they’ve always gone together. Even with my patients in the last decade, I found out really quickly that [the yogis I treated] got better so much faster than everyone else. So I realized I need to be giving my patients yoga, and I started giving them what I call "yoga prescriptions". I started giving them a few poses and found that it helped so much. Then years later I thought, “Well I need to be teaching my teachers this.”
Tiffany: I feel satisfied when I’m on my mat. You don’t always want to be there. Some days you’re like, "Ugh, really?" Meditating for me has been such a huge part of my life….it's such a big point for me to come back to through the ups and downs of my life. To find that center point for me is satisfaction. With traveling and doing all this, I so need that grounding of meditation.
KG: Does it feel like you’re always living out of a suitcase?
Tiffany: A bit. I think last year I was home three weekends the whole year. A lot of people assume that I love traveling, but I don’t necessarily. I love meeting new people, but I’m such a homebody. It’s just that when I get there and I teach, I know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I just know that it’s right. But there are sometimes when I’m on the plane, and I’m like, (exasperated sigh)… but I always love it in the end. I love going and meeting new people and I love seeing different cultures. You learn so much and it really opens up your mind. We live in these little bubbles of what we think is right and wrong. It’s so interesting to see other cultures.
KG: What is one of the cultures you’ve experienced that has impacted you the most?
Tiffany: That’s a tough question. I don’t think it’s just one, it’s all. I really enjoy Sydney... they’re just really friendly. They have such an interesting balance of being really sweet but also having some of that dry humor… And to me, I just love that, it’s like the best of Portland and New York. The sweetness of Portland and the bluntness of New York. They’re just really laid-back. But I’ve learned something everywhere. In Asia, I love how people are so appreciative... It’s one of my favorite things about teaching is when people really take it in and just appreciate it. So I love teaching in Asia; it teaches me a lot about being gracious.
KG: What do you do to relax?
Tiffany: I’m such a nerdy person. One of my favorite things to do is just read. My friends make fun of me all the time and say, “You need to stop working!” But I don’t feel like I’m working because for me it’s not work. I actually love studying and reading and learning. It relaxes me and inspires me and keeps me excited. I started playing the guitar again. I played it when I was a teenager for a while and I loved it. But it’s definitely more just for fun.
KG: What are you reading right now?
Tiffany: A lot of what I read is more just medical stuff. Medical journals and things, but I really enjoy it. I love being a student, and I love school and studying.
KG: Do you do any volunteer work?
Tiffany: I do some. I used to do a lot, but it’s just hard when you’re traveling. It’s really hard with my schedule to commit to local stuff on a regular basis. I used to do some work at a juvenile detention center - I did a lot with Living Yoga. I love Living Yoga. But because my time and place are limited, I try to do more around offering products and giving donations. I love the Girl Effect. That’s one I usually support a lot. It’s all about educating girls and getting them out of that cycle of having to sell themselves to support their families. They have a really cool video that explains the program and gives a short synopsis in a really clear way (check it out here: The Girl Effect). It’s great because I think that it is really important to empower and educate women... who don’t have access to that. To keep them out of that cycle of having to sell themselves as kids and then end up pregnant and then unable to do anything else. It’s so important to do stuff like that. I try to, and I want to do more.
Tiffany: I should have an answer for that… It just depends on what I’m in the mood for.
KG: What was one of the most important days of your life?
Tiffany: For me it’s not just one day, it’s that combination of days. It must be sometime around the wilderness experience. Because that’s when everything changed for me. I was so lost as a teenager and went from being really religious and spiritual to being really rebellious and just feeling really lost. And then going to that wilderness program and finding out how to survive and how to heal. It was really transformative because it started everything for me in medicine and yoga.
KG: What's your favorite KiraGrace item?
Tiffany: I adore my Warrior Tough Cut Leggings, they are kind of my signature piece! I love the new animal print as well and pretty much all the one shoulder tops.