Rise and Thrive With Tiffany Cruikshank, the Founder of Yoga Medicine
The health expert shares her energizing morning routine and exactly what she does to sleep soundly at night.
Tiffany Cruikshank is not your average Yogi. She began practicing yoga in her early teens, and quickly realized that there were huge health benefits to the practice. She went off to study pre-med, and received a Bachelor’s degree in medicinal plant biology, and a Master’s degree in acupuncture and oriental medicine with a specialty in sports medicine and orthopedics. Her effective teaching methods combine the knowledge of the body (anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology) with the Eastern tradition of yoga. 20 years later, the internationally acclaimed founder of Yoga Medicine has treated more than 25,000 patients from around the world using yoga, acupuncture, nutrition, meditation, and holistic health. She was the acupuncturist and yoga teacher at the Nike World Headquarters, graced the cover of over a dozen magazines, and is the best selling author of two books: Meditate Your Weight and Optimal Health For A Vibrant Life.
Since she practices what she preaches, we wanted to learn how she prioritizes her day. In an exclusive interview with Thrive, she shares her morning and evening routine with tips and tools to help anyone start and end their day with productivity and mindfulness.
Thrive Global: What time do you wake up?
Tiffany Cruikshank: Sleep is very important to me, so when I’m working from home, I usually let myself wake naturally. It’s usually around 7 a.m. When I’m working on the road, I wake up early (around 5 a.m.) and work until 9 p.m. When I’m working from home, I try to arrange my days around my most efficient hours and refuel by getting plenty of sleep, so I can also be more productive.
TG: How do you wake up?
TC: I wake up naturally, but by an alarm when I’m on the road.
TG: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
TC: I like to drink some matcha and check my emails; it helps me wake up and get excited for my day. Then I’ll meditate to help clear my head and prepare to do more lengthy tasks. After that, I usually take a few minutes to tidy my house; it helps me prepare to work efficiently. Then I’ll sit down and do the longer tasks of the day: writing content, drafting plans, interviews, schedule planning, meetings, etc. Sometime in the mid-morning before lunch I’ll do my yoga practice or some sort of movement.
TC: Green smoothie with whatever veggies I have that sound good, ground flax seed, and I5 energize protein powder by Xymogen. It’s kind of like my multivitamin, protein/fuel, gut health, detox, and energy all in one.
TG: What is your go-to beauty routine?
TC: I love Goop skincare products; they’re pricey but worth every penny, especially the luminous melting cleanser. My dry skin soaks it up like no product I’ve ever tried before.
TG: Do you do a workout in the morning?
TC: Usually yoga, sometimes pilates, or the gym. I like to play around in the gym and experiment with moving and challenging my body in different ways. I believe physical health is more about variability than repetition, so I like to do different things. When I’m short on time, I’ll do a quick HIIT routine or hop on a YogaGlo.com class.
TG: Anything special you do that is part of your morning routine?
TC: I usually incorporate some myofascial release in my yoga practice or workouts to keep my tissues healthy and mobile. Most people think of strength as just muscle, but tissue strength and injury prevention are also dependent on collagen and hyaluronic acid production, which can be influenced by many things -- one of which is myofascial release. As I get older, I can sense the importance of this more.
TG: How do you set yourself up to thrive for the day?
TC: It’s all mindset for me. After specializing in orthopedics and seeing patients for over 16 years and teaching yoga for over 24 years, the more I do this, the more I really see and believe in the power of the mind. When I see a new patient, I can usually tell pretty quickly how fast they will respond to treatments. The placebo effect has a negative connotation in the medical world, but the reality is that it represents our mental resilience and just how powerful this central processing system of the mind is. For instance, as we continue to learn more about pain, we see how powerful something as simple as pain education can be on the experience of pain itself. So for me preparing for my day mentally, having a plan, being able to visualize what I want to create, and creating a positive mental landscape are all very important to me, and are why I start my day with a meditation to prepare me for what’s ahead.
TG: What sets you back that you avoid?
TC: Meditating and tidying used to feel like they took too much time, but I quickly realized that they constituted an investment in my efficiency through the day, and I actually got more work done that way. However, when I work from home, it’s easy to get distracted by the unending list of things I have to do around the house, so I have to create a space to work in to tune that out.
TG: How do you organize your day? How do you prioritize your to-do list?
TC: I like to get quick emails out of the way first because it helps me feel like I get some work done right away. Then I carve out time for tasks that require more creativity or time to complete. I usually end my day by cleaning out my email inbox again to prepare for the next day. At the end of the day, I like to take some time to plan out my upcoming day to be sure I’m on track with deadlines and long-term projects.
TG: What is your relationship with technology? How does it impact your day? Do you take tech breaks?
TC: I like to start by cleaning out emails, but I have to be careful not to let it take over my day. As the brain behind the business, I have many projects that also require me to write content or plan creative direction for the business, and that necessitates time without the internet so I can stay focused. I’ll carve out time to write and create most days, and on Fridays, I carve out time to sort through research to stay up to date. My tech breaks are also spent on my yoga mat. As a teacher, my best inspiration happens in my personal practice, as I feel and find nuances in alignment or other details in my body.
TG: What do you do to unwind before bed?
TC: A couple hours before bed, I start to slow down, power down, and turn the lights down to help slowly lower my cortisol. I’m very protective of this sleep ritual, no matter where I am in the world. Sleep is such a critical part of my health and wellness; it’s irreplaceable.
TG: Walk us through your evening routine.
TC: I usually unplug before dinner, then take some time to eat and nourish myself. After dinner, I like to look at my day ahead, and do anything I need to prepare to be efficient the next day before it gets too late. Sometimes that’s carving out my day to be productive, and setting aside time for things that require more creativity and brainpower, like writing new content for our trainings or new projects. Then I get ready for bed, turn off lights and devices, and watch some TV with my husband before we fall asleep.
TG: Is tech a big part of your evening?
TC: I usually power down by dinner, though if my husband is out of town, sometimes I’ll work later. However, I know I’m sacrificing the next morning if I do that, since it will take me longer to go to bed and turn my brain off. When I’m writing books or manuals or creative things, I just make the best use of whenever I’m inspired.
TG: How do you set yourself up for a good night’s rest?
TC: Powering down before bed. I’m a firm believer in dimming the lights slowly before bed; it’s crucial for me to get my cortisol down and prepare for sleep. I think it’s really important. I like watching TV at night. I know it’s bad for your sleep, but it helps me turn my mind off. I love my job, so if left to my own volition, I’ll keep thinking and planning and preparing.
TG: What keeps you up at night? How do you combat that?
TC: I’m usually a really good sleeper, I think partly because I enjoy sleep. I look forward to the time where I don’t have to make decisions or do anything at all. It feels luxurious and indulgent to get time to relax at night and be away from it all. I think that mindset helps a lot as well. If I really need to sleep and I’m having trouble falling asleep, like with jet lag, I’ll take tryptophan and do some breathing practices to slow down my mind. My favorite practice that I’ll do in bed is to inhale for four counts and exhale for five counts, then exhale six, seven, and eight, and repeat four counts in and eight counts out until I feel myself drifting off. It feels like a countdown to sleep as my nervous system unwinds and my brain lands in bed in the process.