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interview with tiffany cruikshank

I’ve been a long time admirer of Tiffany Cruikshank via YogaGlo and social media. She’s an inspiring source of information for teachers and students, and is one of the clearest teachers of anatomy that I’ve met. I was so excited to see her on the lineup for Wanderlust Vermont 2013, and blown away that I would have the chance to sit with her and ask a few questions. I met up with Tiffany (and Lulu) on Thursday morning at the festival, and found her to be gracious and genuine. 

tiffande

Here’s what we talked about:

What are you most looking forward to this year at Wanderlust?

What I love most about Wanderlust is the community gathering. There are people here from all over, one of my assistants even came in from Finland to be here. These are people who don’t always get to see and practice with each other coming together and creating a community to support each other, even though we don’t know each other. I’ve been teaching here about the ability to show up and support, both directly and indirectly, just by showing up to our mats. There’s a connection of a community both locally and globally.

When you are leading big events like this one, what is your preparation like? Is it different from how you would normally think about teaching?

My preparation is not much different, but I think the biggest thing when you’re teaching a festival like this is that you have to be aware that people are practicing all day, all weekend. The content is going to be a little bit different. I compare it to running a marathon, each and every person at a festival is running a marathon this weekend, I’m not going to blow them out by teaching like I would teach an hour and a half home class. But my preparation is the same, I like writing out sequences, I enjoy that even if I don’t always follow them, it helps me have a clear purpose for my teaching, what am I hoping to get out of this.

What is the most major “wow” moment of your career this far?

I feel like there have been a lot of those moments, I feel like they happen all the time. When someone shows up and tells me the story of how something changed their life, I don’t know if there is any one bigger than the other. It’s all been amazing, I still feel really grateful just to be able to do what I love.

What does a festival like Wanderlust mean for your practice and your teaching?

I love it because I can come here and teach and connect with people from different places, but then I’m also able to take classes. I feel just as exhausted as the students by the end because I’m taking classes all day long too and I love that. I love that pure exhausted bliss at the end of the weekend from taking four classes a day. I squeeze in as much as I can, it’s stimulating as a teacher and your mind is inspired to think in different ways, and come up with different things in your own practice. I love this time of year, it’s my time of year to fuel up, too, and to learn from the teachers around me. There are so many great teachers here, and many that are new to me that I get to meet for the first time.

How do you think festivals and conferences like this one fit into modern day yoga?

I think whether you are new or more experienced a festival is a great way to deepen your knowledge, and really immerse yourself. It’s a great way to sample out a lot of different teachers, and maybe find the teacher that you want to seek out and learn from. It’s one thing to go and study with just one person in a retreat setting, or to come to a festival and get overloads of tons of teachers. As long as you approach it with a mindset of having fun and take it at your level, I really think anyone can attend a festival. Yoga is growing so much, and it really becomes a lifestyle. And it’s so nice to be able to come to a festival and have vendors and people who will help support and inspire a healthy lifestyle.

What is on the horizon for you that you are really looking forward to?

That one is easy, I’m in the process of moving to Sydney, and moving Lulu, to be with my fiance, Duncan Peak. I’m starting to figure out how to juggle my schedule next year so I can still do all the fun things I love, so now it’s just trying to figure out how to schedule it all well. But; I’m excited just to be there! And Lulu is excited to be on the beach.

I was thrilled to have the chance to attend two of Tiffany’s workshops at Wanderlust. The first on the Anatomy of Hips, a workshop specifically for teachers that addressed the musculature of the hips and how they are worked or stretched in our practice. I am always happy to go over more anatomy, there is always so much to learn and remember again. Tiffany is so clear and a bit playful with her work, this was a fun chance to learn and meet other teachers at the festival.

Tiffany Inversions workshop

My boyfriend and I also made it to an 8 am Sunday morning Intermediate/Advanced Inversions practice with Tiffany. If you’re a yogi, I think you can identify with early morning Sunday practice after a long weekend of tons of yoga and late night dancing with MC Yogi! (if you can’t identify with this, you should come to Wanderlust 2014 and get the experience!), but I was completely happy to be in Tiffany’s class Sunday am and LOVED it. Lots of playing with handstand and headstand, and also lots of interesting arm balance practice. Tiffany has a way of teaching these advanced asana that make them accessible for me, and keep me engaged. I don’t consider myself an expert inversion practitioner, but I still got a TON out of this practice. I also met the lovely Alison Bernasco who was assisting Tiffany in this workshop, she was a great help and is a sweet soul who lives and teaches in Northern New Jersey.

A big thank you to Tiffany, and Lululemon Athletica who made this possible for me!
Until next time, Namaste!

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on consuming

Let me just say, I had a heck of a 2012, I think we all did. My life was full of dramas and difficulties that had me turning my focus away from my own health. And this happens sometimes. I was pleased to kiss the year good bye and welcome 2013 with open arms! And with it, my ability to return to my regular self-care routines.
In fact, I have not just made a return but I’ve explored, experimented and committed to my health & beauty regiment in a whole new way. I decided to no longer put things into or onto my body that are full of preservatives, chemicals and CRAP! I’ve overhauled my products and while I’m still fine tuning, here are the great successes I’ve had that I would love to share with you:

  • Clean Eating – This is probably the biggest change I’ve made. I’ve been an organic eater for a long time, but that doesn’t mean a good eater. Especially when I’m under stress I would grab a frozen meal or take-out. Who knows what you’re eating in take-out! And frozen meals? Loaded with salts and additives that bloat your waistline and leave you feeling unsatisfied and under-nourished.  I can’t take full credit for the changes I’ve made in my diet, Katie Braja greatly helped me fine tune the instinct I had started and get my diet under control. She turned me on to gems like Raw Fermented Sauerkraut (a probiotic you can scoop onto most veggie dishes, it’s delicious!) and the morning spinach smoothie.
  • Favorite benefit: I could say that I’m happiest about losing belly fat, but really it’s that I feel amazing, full of energy and actually sated with what I’m eating.
quinoa and adzuki beans, roasted beets and sweet potatoes, sautéed kale and garlic over raw lettuce, with sauerkraut!
  • Juicing – I’ve always loved juices, but after pulling the plug on buying a Breville Juicer in November, this occasional treat has become a regular addition to my diet. Drinking a juice is like giving yourself a booster shot of vitamins and nutrients. Juicers everywhere tout the benefits, energy boost, better skin, improved immunity, etc. etc. I do find that especially during high pollen season juices help me clear my sinuses (thanks to a healthy dose of ginger and lemon). I also just generally feel better when I am juicing regularly than when I’m not, I sometimes add a juice instead of a snack or on special occasions use fresh juice as a base to my smoothie for a sweeter more delicious treat.
  • Favorite benefit: pick your own! Juicing has so many awesome effects.
cabbage, cucumber, turmeric, ginger, lemon, kiwi, pear and kale!
  • The Oil Cleansing Method – After reading this article on Elena (I really love her!) Brower’s site, I decided to try the Oil Cleansing Method. I’ve now been using it about six months and have no intention of switching back. My skin is softer and healthier. I’ve always been prone to occasional break-outs and while I can’t say they are eliminated, blemishes are less noticeable and last far less time than they used to. I also love that I know exactly what I’m putting on my face and not absorbing all of the who-knows-what that is ingredients of other face washes. (Seriously check out your labels, what’s all that stuff?) I did need to do a little playing around with the oil combinations to make this work. My favorite combination? Castor oil, Apricot oil, Jojoba oil with a few drops of Lavender.
  • Favorite Benefit: my face is soft and never greasy, I don’t feel dry or raw the way many washes left my sensitive skin.
for more information, try googling “oil cleansing method” there are dozens of helpful articles.
  • Coconut Oil – I use coconut oil for many purposes, it’s my main choice for cooking (although I do use Olive Oil and Sesame Oil as well). I also keep another jar of the stuff in my shower. I rub it into my hair and let it soak in before shampooing, I lather it onto my body either during the shower, or after as a moisturizer (after the shower lends more moisture but requires more time to let it absorb before you get dressed and go about your day). I also use coconut oil as a base to make hair and face masks in my kitchen (seriously, try it with an egg, a banana and a scoop of honey, blended, for hair or face, super rich and delicious results!). If you have the budget and desire to use expensive organic beauty products I think that’s awesome, I have gotten the same (maybe better!) results for super cheap with my last two routines!
  • Favorite benefit: Coconut oil feels silky, cool and amazing when applied to your skin, it makes me feel like a million bucks and has helped me treat and prevent my usual warm weather eczema!
Costs ten dollars at whole foods, feels like a $100 facial.
Costs ten dollars at whole foods, feels like a $100 facial.
  • Mindfulness – Of course, yoga, meditation and mindful hiking/running have been part of my practice for years, but bringing awareness into the way I eat, cook and care for myself in all aspects is a little more new. My own opinions mean that I have slowly cleansed my cabinets of processed and pre-prepared products, you may feel differently and I think that’s cool. I do think taking some time to consider what you believe is okay for consumption (through mouth or skin) is important. And starting to apply those beliefs to your shopping is uncomfortable at first (what do you mean I’m not reaching for the frozen gyoza!), but really pays off in the end. It might mean getting a farm share, going to local farmer’s markets, or just paying more attention to the labels at your own grocery store. Being mindful of what you put into your body means your body will start giving you what you’re asking of it in terms of both performance and appearance. My self-judgement (more like self-abuse!) has gone out the window as I’ve given my body love in the form of consumption, I am feeling love back.
  • Favorite Benefit: How many people can actually say that they buy in accordance with their ethics? You could be one of them!

I hope you’ve enjoyed, and I am always on the look out for tips, tricks and brands in line with my philosophy, what are some of your favorites? If you’ve got a tip, or if you’d like to hear more in this category leave a comment below!

Until next time, eat well, live well, be well.

Namaste.

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eight poses to survive the winter

Earlier today I was scooting through the new and slushy snow to my car, it started to gently rain. Well, the gentle rain might as well have been tiny steel balls being pelted at my achey, tired body. You could say winter doesn’t always agree with me.

 

Despite daily practice and a renewed commitment to really working on my body and my yoga, the cold air, cold snow and cold rain cause as much tension in my shoulders and lower back as holding plank pose with bad alignment for an hour. Cue yoga to the rescue (as always).

 

Here are the eight asana that have been saving my body this winter, undoing some of the tightness we see at this time of year.

1. Paschimottanasana – Seated Forward Fold – whether passive in a Yin practice, or active at the end of a sweaty vinyasa class, this pose relieves tight hamstrings. Forward bends also release and lengthen the spine, easing a contracted lower back.

 

2. Supta Baddha Konasana – Reclined Bound Angle Pose – this delicious passive pose is a balm for tight hips. It also softly opens the chest and shoulders, aids digestion and is great for headaches and menstrual cramps.

 

3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – Bridge Pose – A deeper opening for the shoulders and chest, I usually get a few “pops” out of my cervical vertebra (neck) during the active pose, and it feels good. Bridge also gently stretches the quads and hip flexors. Add a block or bolster under your sacrum for a passive version of the same pose.

 

4. Ardha Bekasana – Half Frog Pose – if you need a bigger quad stretch than Bridge pose, look no further. This pose requires a bit more activity and precision in the upper body, but is accessible to most people (a strap can be useful to find your back foot!)

 

5. Balasana – Child’s Pose – I know it’s really winter when Child’s Pose starts to feel like a big hip opener. My preferred method of child’s pose delivery mid-January? Two bolsters, one under your bottom, the other stacked on top of that. Stick a block under any extra “hang over” of the top bolster, fold forward and let go! Stay in this Restorative version of the pose about 10 minutes.

 

6. Gomukasana – Cow Face Pose – This pose targets the piriformis (outer hip/butt region) like GPS. You can add the arm variation to get into the chest and shoulders. Avoid any sharp or pinch-y sensations, taking Reclined Ankle-To-Knee is a good variation!

gomukasana pose

7. Jathara Parivartanasana – Simple Reclined Twist – Any variation of a twist on your back will detox your system, boost your digestive system and relieve aches in the lower back. Safest for the lower back is to be sure your hips are stacked!

 

8. Savasana – Corpse Pose – My home practice has included much longer Savasana than I might crave in the summer. In fact, my whole practice has been slowed down. When it’s cold outside we need more time to settle in each pose. Especially here! After 5 0r 6 minutes I am just beginning to experience total relaxation in my body. So I stay for 5 or 6 more minutes.

 

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I hope you are enjoying your own practice and staying connected through these winter months. What are you favorite poses right now? What helps you get through the cold months?

As always, Happy Wednesday and Namaste!

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rainy day poses

April’s showers seem to have been delayed into May. We’ve had a lot of puddles, thick wet air and worms on the sidewalks this month. This kind of weather shrinks up your muscles and connective tissues, making your tight places feel tighter. For me, and maybe for you, that means my hips and hamstrings start talking to me a little more than usual.

Try this yummy seated pose for a little rainy relief!

Marichyasana B Variation (Seated Hip Opener)

Marichyasana D
a juicy forward bend that releases hips, groins and low back named for a sage.

To come into this pose, sit on your sitting bones, as tall as possible. cross your right leg in front of you as if you were sitting cross legged in Sukhasana.

draw your left leg in so that your knee points straight up and your heel lines up with your left sitting bone.

your left foot is crossing in front of your right leg, traditionally this pose is done with the right leg in lotus but this position puts a lot more pressure on the knee and is only appropriate if you are warmed up and should not be tried without a teacher.

the left side of your seat might lift a little off the floor as if you were squatting, this is okay but stay aware of your lower back on this side and keep the back long and open by reaching your sit bone straight down.

now you are ready to fold over the right leg, on the inside of your left thigh. keep your spine long and reach your chest forward as if you were going to lay it down beyond your right shin.

if you’d like to wrap the arms around the left thigh and the right side of your low back and bind your hands behind your back this is an option if a bind is a regular part of your practice. another variation would be reaching your hands forward to release the upper back.

hold about 10 breaths, release slowly and do the other side!

enjoy, and happy monday!

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