Peace of Mind: A Q&A with Tiffany Cruikshank
An international yoga teacher, author, and health & wellness expert, Tiffany Cruikshank's escalating popularity and success is evidence that she is a voice of wisdom and truth in a world that desperately needs it. She founded Yoga Medicine in 2014, an in-depth, anatomically based training system that instructs teachers across the globe to work more powerfully with their students. Yoga Medicine is not a style of yoga but rather a training that educates the teacher to understand the body and create individualized yoga programs for the student based on their understanding of the anatomy, biomechanics, physiology & the traditional practice of yoga. Tiffany is known as a teacher's teacher. Her ability to fuse the two worlds of eastern and western medicine together and apply it to the practice of yoga in an accessible and relevant way has earned her international recognition.
Tiffany recently published her second book, Meditate Your Weight. In this highly acclaimed book, Tiffany explains the health benefits of meditation and teaches you how to incorporate practical, easy-to-use meditations into your life. A 21-day meditation program, Meditate Your Weight helps you explore and release what is weighing you down physically, emotionally, and mentally. As you lighten up on the inside, you'll lighten up on the outside, making it easier to think more clearly, make better choices, and maximize your metabolism. We stole a few minutes of Tiffany's time to ask her a few questions about her new book:
KiraGrace: Why did you write this book?
Tiffany Cruikshank: I’ve worked with patients for a long time on optimizing their health. My first book, Optimal Health, focuses on diet, nutrition, and yoga. I received a lot of great feedback from people who had found it helpful, but then I found that there was this whole layer of people who were living a very healthy lifestyle yet still struggling with their health and weight... People who had been dieting, eating really well, exercising really hard, and doing all of the right things, even checking their thyroid and their digestion. It wasn't until we incorporated a meditation practice into their lifestyle that things really changed for them. And then they actually came to me with the idea of doing a book on mediation for weight loss, and at first I was a little hesitant… It sounded very superficial to me. But then I started thinking about it and I fell in love with the idea of coming back to the depth of health from another perspective. I grew eager to share the success stories I've seen in my patients' lives and meditation as the huge missing link. I think it’s really important for people to know this aspect of health because it gets overlooked so easily! The research tells us there is so much power in the mind, and meditation can affect the metabolism on a very physiologic level.
KiraGrace: So what is meditation?
Tiffany Cruikshank: I like to think of meditation as tending your own interior garden. Researcher Paul Gilbert came up with that metaphor, and I use it all the time because it’s so true and relatable. Your brain is changing every single day whether you realize it or not. It's just like a garden - it will grow without human intervention. But who knows what will end up there without conscious attention? Certainly not well-tended tomatoes or gorgeous roses! If you take the time to tend your garden, even if it’s just five minutes a day, you will see a major difference in which plants bloom. In the same way, a small amount of focused meditation effort will yield beautiful results.
KiraGrace: What do you see as the hardest hurdle for people to overcome in making mediation part of their daily practice?
Tiffany: Frequency and commitment. Developing a regular routine is the most important thing to do when you begin meditating. Frequency is far more important than duration because it helps your nervous system create a consistent pattern. It's crucial to find a time of the day that works for you. I love the mornings and I know I’m not alone here! There’s something magical about taking advantage of the early morning and setting an intention for the day first thing. But find a time that works for you! As far as the nervous system goes, the timing is irrelevant. What’s most important is finding a realistic, regular time you can commit to, even if it’s just three minutes a day, and then sticking to it.
KiraGrace: Why is stress so bad?
Tiffany: It isn’t! Stress is typically viewed as a negative thing, when really it’s neither negative or positive. It’s our reaction that determines whether we experience stress in a negative or positive way. A certain amount of stress can be very exciting and good for us, but too much chronic negative stress such as worry and anxiety increases muscle tension, anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, overeating or under-eating, and all of these can lead to more chronic, inflammatory health conditions. So meditation is a powerful tool to changing your brain's reaction to stress.
KiraGrace: Would you say people are more stressed now than ever before?
Tiffany: Stress has always been present in the lives of humans. I’m sure the earliest humans stressed out about whether or not they would find food for dinner or a protected shelter. Stress masks itself in different ways in each generation. But I would say that our present culture thrives on triggering the fight-or-flight response as often as possible. With television, internet, smartphones, social media 24/7, all these messages are competing for our attention and the most effective way to get our attention is to try and hijack our nervous system. So yes, we are being bombarded with stress-inducing circumstances so much more. We were never meant to stay in fight-or-flight mode for more than a few minutes at a time - just long enough to outsmart or outrun immediate danger. We were meant to live in rest-and-digest mode, or parasympathetic mode, the majority of our day and lives. The more we allow the fight-or-flight mode to dictate our state and the more it adversely affects our health.
KiraGrace: Why is meditation such a big tool to weight loss?
Tiffany: You can do all the right things – have an extremely clean diet, exercise daily, sleep eight hours a night – but if your parasympathetic mode isn’t functioning properly, your cortisol will remain high and your body will store more fat. Meditation is the best way to relax the body. Meditation reduces cortisol and other stress hormones and also increases beneficial hormones such as DHEA and growth hormones that maintain lean body tissue. It also increases thyroid stimulating hormones and prolactin which help support a strong metabolism. All of these changes continually reinforce one another and by design, the Meditate Your Weight plan capitalizes on this combined effect.
KiraGrace: This book is designed to be a 21 day retreat. Why 21 days?
Tiffany: It takes 21 days to make or break a habit!
KiraGrace: What happens after the 21 days? What do you hope people will take away from your book?
Tiffany: My hope is that this three week retreat provides a gentle, simple introduction to the powerful practice of meditation. At the end of these 21 days, I hope that my readers will have developed a meditation habit that they are confident will remain in their lives for years to come. Mindfulness meditation is a discipline with a versatile set of skills that can see you through all the phases of your life. Once you’ve internalized these skills and committed to a daily practice, you’ll have mindful awareness guiding you through every trying transition, maximizing every joyful experience, and helping you derive the most resonance and meaning out of every moment of your life.
KiraGrace: So, let's put business on hold and get personal! You made a big move to Seattle recently? Why did you move and how do you like it?
Tiffany: Haha! Well, my beau and I were craving a change from the hustle and bustle of LA. I've really been missing my Portland days - I just think the Pacific Northwest is so beautiful and refreshing and soothing. So we decided to go make roots in Seattle! We have this cute house, and things just couldn't be better. I'm so happy to have a house with a yard and plants again, especially on a perfect Seattle day. It nourishes me like nothing else. It's so gorgeous here! My new favorite office is my backyard, and Lulu couldn't agree with me more.
KiraGrace: Ohh how wonderful! We're picturing you both doing yoga in the backyard on Sunday mornings and being the super cutest couple ever! Is your partner really into yoga too?
Tiffany: He actually isn't!
KiraGrace: Oh wow! What's that like? Is it hard to have a partner who isn't a big yogi?
Tiffany: Not at all. He may not step onto a yoga mat every day, but he "does" yoga in the way that he chooses love and compassion in every encounter with every person he meets. He has always been open to learning more about my world and supports me constantly, even accompanying me on my travels. He came with me to India for our Seva Project last year and other parts of the world. His "yoga" inspires me daily. I couldn't be more grateful and content to have found the love of my life.
Tiffany has been teaching for over 20 years. She has a pre-med Bachelors degree in Medicinal Plant Biology and a Masters in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine with a specialty in Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. Tiffany began leading informal teacher trainings out of her home to local teachers in her area in 2003 and began leading Yoga Alliance approved 200hr teacher trainings in 2008 and Yoga Alliance approved 500hr teacher trainings in 2009 as TiffanyYoga.
Tiffany was previously the Acupuncturist & Yoga Teacher at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon and has worked with over 25,000 patients. She has graced the cover of over a dozen magazines including: Prevention, Yoga Journal, Om Yoga Magazine, Mantra Yoga & Health Magazine, Origin Magazine, Thrive Magazine. She has been a contributor to many major publications including: The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, Forbes, Fox News, Yoga Journal, Prevention, Dr. Oz, Self, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Glamor, Shape, Fitness, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, More, Well+Good, MindBodyGreen, Triathlete, Organic Authority, American Fitness, Yoga Magazine, AOL Build, Cosmopolitan, Natural Health and more.