Understanding Ch’i, Yoga, & Acupuncture w/ Expert Tiffany Cruikshank
Today, we are joined by one of the top names in the world of Yoga – Tiffany Cruikshank. Because we've done episodes on meditation and ayurveda, it seemed only fitting to round out the trifecta and discuss Yoga, especially since it has seen such an incredible renaissance in the last decade, and is, in many ways, the go-to for tens of millions of people looking to improve their health, their lives, and their performance.
With a B.S. in medicinal plant biology and nutrition, a masters in acupuncture and oriental medicine, and a specialty in sports medicine and orthopedics, Tiffany Cruikshank is an expert in how holistic medicine and yoga come together. She teaches vinyasa yoga, and leads teacher trainings in her therapeutic style of yoga, called Yoga Medicine. In addition to all of this, she has written two books, Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life, and Meditate Your Weight, and has previously served as the acupuncturist at Nike’s World Headquarters.
In this episode, we talk about all things holistic medicine – from yoga to acupuncture – and how you can use them to improve yourself and your life. We talk about Yoga, Meditation, and the various benefits you can reap from each – as well as practical and easy ways to reap those benefits. We had a great conversation and really enjoyed ourselves, and I’m quite sure you’ll enjoy listening in, as well.
In this episode, we discuss:
- How Tiffany Cruikshank started her journey and passion for yoga at just 14 years old
- Tiffany's background in Chinese medicine, yoga, and western medicine
- How did Tiffany Cruikshank learn and become an expert among experts?
- The interaction between modern research and ancient traditions
- At it's core, what exactly is yoga all about?
- What, if anything, does research say about Yoga?
- If you already meditate and exercise, do you still need Yoga?
- How is Yoga different from just stretching?
- Determining whether or not Yoga is for you
- A discussion of cortisol, stress, anxiety, and human performance
- When do people start noticing a transformation from Yoga?
- The idea of “yoga prescriptions” and what they're used for
- Meditation versus prescription drugs
- Does Tiffany Cruikshank meditate in addition to yoga? Why or why not?
- Should you start with meditation, yoga, or what?
- An explanation of energetics, Ch'i, acupuncture, and how it works
- What are the commonalities between chakras/natis/prana (Indian) and meridians/Ch'i (Chinese)?
- Where can you learn more about Ch'i, prana, and acupuncture?
- What do Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Physics have to say about all of this?
- Who are Tiffany Cruikshank's gurus? Who does she admire?
- Where to learn more about Tiffany Cruikshank
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Our previous episode with Dr. Kirk Parsley
- Our previous episode with Dr. Andrew Hill
- Tiffany's book, Meditate Your Weight
- Sam Harris' introduction to meditation
- Book: The Web That Has No Weaver
- Book: Between Heaven and Earth
- Gary Kraftsow
- Seane Corn
Favorite Quotes from Tiffany Cruikshank:
Introduction: Welcome to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast. Where we interview extraordinary people to bring you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible. And now here's your host, Jonathan Levi.
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Hey there SuperFriends and welcome to today's show. You guys today, we are joined by one of the top names in the world of yoga. Now in the past, you guys know that we've done episodes on meditation and Ayurveda so it really only seemed fitting that we would round out this trifecta and discuss yoga. Especially since yoga has seen such an incredible Renaissance in the last decade. And in many ways, it's really the go-to for tens of millions of people who are looking to improve their health, their lives, their emotional lives, and their performance.
With a BS in Medicinal Plant Biology and Nutrition. My guest today also has a Master's in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and a specialty in sports medicine in orthopedics. She's also an expert in how holistic medicine and yoga come together. Now she teaches Vinyasa yoga and leads, teacher trainings in her very own therapeutic style of yoga called Yoga Medicine.
Now, in addition to all of this, you should know that she's written two books, one called Optimal Health For a Vibrant Life, and the second called Meditate Your Weight. And she's also served as the acupuncturist at Nike's world headquarters for the last five years. So definitely a woman who knows just about everything there is to know about health as it relates to East meets West.
Now, in this episode, I wanted to talk about all things, holistic medicine from yoga to acupuncture, to ch'i and even chakras. And I wanted to understand how you can use them to improve yourself and your life. It's a great episode, and we really cover a ton of bases. We start to understand why yoga is so powerful, what it can do to benefit your life and how you can go about implementing it and balancing it out with other things such as meditation and exercise.
I definitely learned a ton during this episode. I had a great rapport with the guests. As you can tell, we really enjoyed our conversation and I'm sure that you will as well. So without any further delay, let me present to you, Ms. Tiffany Cruickshank.
Tiffany Cruickshank, welcome to the show. It is such a pleasure to have you with us today.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Thanks for having me.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. An absolute pleasure. I've really been trying to get someone on the show to talk to us about yoga. I mean, I know we've done Ayurveda before, we've done a little bit of on meditation. We haven't managed to get yoga, so I'm really excited to talk to you about that.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Cool. I'm excited too.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah, Tifanny, I understand that yoga has actually been your life's work since you were like an itty bitty little person. So trace us through your journey and what you're up to and how you got to where you are today and how you discovered this passion of yours.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah, I, I actually was, I was pretty young. I was 14 years old and I was actually a little bit of a troublemaker. My parents sent me off on a wilderness program and there was an herbalist there who would take me out on plant walks and, you know, as a 14-year-old girl, I think, and I'm sure boys experiences too, but as a 14-year-old, you know, feeling really lost and uncomfortable in my skin, learning how to survive first was really empowering and then learning how to heal and help people.
And use plants as medicine was a really big kind of initial step for me of. Kind of finding what I wanted to do in life. And, um, when I got back, I, I kept seeing this little sign that said yoga and a phone number. Cause at the time there weren't any yoga studios really around and much of any of the country, really.
Um, so I started going and I had always been really athletic. Yeah. So, you know, I, I enjoyed the physicality of it, but there always seemed like there was something more. I wasn't really quite sure what it was, but it really intrigued me. And then little did. I know I would spend my life studying and teaching it from there.
I continued to study as an apprentice, was an herbalist. I went and finished my high school and started college when I was 16. I got my pre-med undergrad in Medicinal Plant Biology and Nutrition. And then I went straight on into Chinese medicine school and on to get a specialty in sports medicine and did all sorts of different, fun things, linking the yoga together for me, you know, they're not really separate pads.
It's always been kind of one kind of interest for me in health and wellness and the fusion of yoga with holistic medicine and Chinese medicine has always been something that really intrigued me from early on of really being able to help people. I love medicine. And then I did look at going into Western medicine briefly and all sorts of ire Veda and all sorts of different types and styles.
I really was intrigued with this kind of ability to help people really refine their lives, really optimize their lives and their health. And, you know, for me, yoga is a big part of that, you know, this capacity to bring it into both a physical and a mental realm, and then also the holistic side of what we eat and what we put into our bodies. And it's always been really intriguing to me.
Jonathan Levi: So, I guess many people would ask many different questions about, you know, who your guru was and stuff like that. The question I want to know is about your learning process. I mean, walk me through you're a 14-year-old girl and you decide, okay. Probably, you know, through a series of events, you decide like this is what you want to do and you want to become an expert among experts.
And how do you get from A to B? I mean, what was your learning process? Because I imagine you can't just go to graduate school.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah. And I'm not sure I knew exactly what I wanted to do at the time. And I definitely didn't know that it would become this. Until, you know, it's kind of evolved into this as a, over the past 20 to 20 some years. Yeah, I definitely didn't set out to be here, but I always, for me, it was always just an interest in health and wellness and helping people that kind of, you know, really evolved a million times over a long way.
Jonathan Levi: Right. How do you go about learning this stuff? Did you read a lot of books? Did you travel the world and learn?
Tiffany Cruikshank: For, for the yoga side?
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah. I mean, for the yoga side of it, you know, back then there wasn't a lot of training and things you could do. I, I had books, I had a teacher and he's actually passed away now, but he was my first teacher and he, you know, introduced me to the practice and led me at the beginning.
And you know, a lot of it was passed on by word of mouth. I, when I moved off to college when I was 16, there really weren't any yoga teachers that I knew of in the area. So I, I ended up going to a yoga teacher training, which did, there were a few at the time, but this was before the internet. So you couldn't really get on and Google.
And I remember getting two or three pamphlets in the mail that I got to choose from. And I was, you know, I was a student, so one of 'em worked for my schedule, my being in the summertime. And I went and, you know, that was kinda how it started. And I started teaching people. And, you know, as, you know, as many people know, you, you learn a lot by teaching as well by doing.
And so, yeah. I've studied with a lot of different teachers over the years and done a lot of continuing education for me. A lot of it, you know, with my business now with yoga medicine is really the fusion of East and West. So it's not necessarily just what I've learned with yoga teachers now, but a lot of it is the fusion of my experience with my patients, as well as in sports medicine and orthopedics, and kind of where the two come together, which to me, I think is the beauty of it is kind of the modernization of bringing the best of what we know now from looking at cadavers and looking at bodies and all of this modern-day knowledge we have and fusing it with this tradition of yoga, which is, you know, thousands of years old before we had cadavers before we looked at anatomy so that we can make it really relevant.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. I was speaking with a friend the other day. And he said to me, he's like, what an amazing time that we live in where, you know, science is now looking into these ancient wisdoms that previous generations just had to go on faith. And we can say, Hey, check out this new study meditation works. And it changes the density of the brain by this percentage.
And I think it's, it's just an incredible gift that we don't even have to go on faith. I mean, so much of this stuff is now being proven and verified.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Absolutely. I think if you had told me 20 years ago, that meditation would be where it is now. I definitely wouldn't have believed it. It's great though.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. So I want to jump in at the yoga point and ask, I mean, I'm sure as with anything that's popular, there's a lot of misconceptions about yoga and what it is. So at its core explained to me from kind of your perspective, in your words, what yoga is all about.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think if you look at just the definition, yoga's union is what it means, and it's this idea of kind of union or bringing together the mind and the body.
You know, I think this is kind of what I alluded to when I first found yoga too, is this, this physicality with the mental practice, with this body awareness, or even potentially the spiritual practice of yoga, if that's part of the practice for you is kind of this bringing together a mind, body, and spirit in a way that.
You know, we don't really see in the rest of the world. The rest of our world really is very disconnected. You know, we sit at our computer, we use our brains it's so brain centric, you know, we go when we exercise and it's, so body-centric, you know, there's not, uh, a real-time and a place to kind of bring these things together to.
Power the intelligence of the brain with the intuition of the body and, you know, and, and the opposite. And so for me, yoga is this beautiful fusion of mind and body that, you know, w we just don't see a lot in the rest of our lives. And for me as a healthcare practitioner, it's been something that I find is really kind of fundamental and foundational to optimal health and wellbeing is this mind, body awareness and our ability to have that as a way to gauge whether we're competitive athletes or business place worker there's, you know, trying to perform our best or be more efficient. Being able to have this kind of the setpoint, this inner gauge, this mind-body experience is such a foundational part of being able to decide, should I push forward or do I need to do more? Do I need to back off?
Is it, you know, a day that I really maybe should be resting instead of pushing harder as an athlete or, you know, how do I find ways to be more efficient just by simply listening and noticing how my body responds and reacts.
Jonathan Levi: Right. I think that's really interesting. You know, one of the things I'm just thinking of, we talked about meditation, we talked about research. I'm really curious, you know, as we said, like, researchers are now realizing the power of this ancient wisdom. What does research say about yoga? I mean, what has bubbled up to the surface in the last few years since it's kind of gone into the limelight.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah, it's actually, it's interesting. You say that, cause you were mentioning about meditation. In fact, you know, a lot of the research results now, most of it, if you look at it, a lot of them are talking about yoga. Most of it is actually really simple Pranayama or breathing practices and meditation practices.
In the yoga research, actually, a few dig in there is, is actually fairly limited still. What they're doing on the actual Austin, as in the physical practices, I think, you know, it is much harder to, you know, put in a little capsule and look at, you know, out of context because there one, there are so many different styles and ways of doing it.
And many different practices. It can be much harder to encapsulate an early study and look at, but you know, there are some, there definitely are a lot more than their words. There's so many anything from, you know, depression and, you know, there are some on learning and some in school systems that they've looked at in children and simple things like doing sometimes meditation and sometimes it's yoga before classes and the effects on their learning, depression. You know, there've been some recently on diabetes and pain is obviously a big one motor control rehab.
You know, there's, there's a lot of them that are happening, but there's still, you know, most of the focus really is around the breathing practices and the meditation in general.
Jonathan Levi: Interesting. Okay. So, I want to ask, you know, we talked about the separation of the mind and body. So I'm going to ask kind of a devil's advocate kind of question, which is, you know, I meditate. And then on the other side, I go to the gym, you know, I do CrossFit, I stretch and stuff like that before my workout. So on and so forth.
Right. So what is it that yoga can offer me again? A devil's advocate question. What is it that yoga would offer me that doing those two practices separately would not offer me?
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah. I mean, I would say there's two answers to that. I mean, I think some people would actually say, you know, if you're meditating and you know, you're doing, you know, you're physically active and you're doing all those things that, you know, maybe yoga isn't necessarily that much more for you.
I mean, I would argue, you know, a lot of people in the traditional yoga sense would say, you know, if you're able to meditate, that's all you need.
Jonathan Levi: Right.
Tiffany Cruikshank: I would say from my more anatomical perspective, from our Western sense, you know, yoga is obviously similar to stretching, but the difference and actually yoga practice, where you're guided through, you know, mindful body awareness and you know, this ability to be in your body in a different scenario than just meditating.
Meditation obviously is a form of yoga. So, you know, when we look at yoga at its core, you know, this movement and the Austin has, I mean, I think what we're talking about here is, is yoga as the asanas and the physical practice versus meditation as the seated practice. But, you know, yoga and the Austin is the physical practice should be an extension of that.
And that, you know, it is more of a movement-based meditation and it may not be a meditation movement, like something like she'd gone or tight, she will receive this very kind of meditative quality. It may be more fast. It may be static. It may be stretching. It may be strengthening, but there is a sense of the cohesion of the practice is in this sense of body awareness that really is, you know, meant to be a part of any type of yoga.
It really is kind of the foundation and the groundwork of it. So. You know, learning how to, as an athlete and maybe you do this already, but you know, learning how to have that mindfulness in, you know, the way that you move can, you know, translate into both how you move as a householder, as a normal human being, as well as, as, as an athlete, it can be really important in kind of retraining muscle habits.
It retraining, you know, how you move. Obviously, the elasticity component of is is really big, you know, that isn't necessarily just stretching. You know, I think a lot of people who are athletes and again, you know, I wouldn't know, without watching you and really seeing what you're doing, you know, where the line between stretching and yoga, you know, I think the mindfulness aspect of it is a big part of it.
You know, you, you go into a yoga practice, you get this kind of parasympathetic tone that you might not get when you're just stretching briefly, you know, before and after a workout, you get, you know, potentially maybe a little bit more elasticity in the muscles and you know, which we know is very important for the balance and integrity of the joints.
And, you know, the long-term longevity on the joints as an athlete. So, you know, it's hard to say without watching, you know, I think a lot of people maybe do some yoga to some extent, and maybe don't even recognize it.
Jonathan Levi: Right. I think that's probably true. A lot of them like breathing and holding these certain positions.
I know I've definitely caught myself doing cat camels and stuff like that. Downward facing dog before I do deadlifts and stuff like that. And it's, it's interesting how so many yoga movements have kind of imbued themselves into everyday aspects of every fitness regimen out there.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah. And, you know, I guess my point is that I don't necessarily think that everyone needs to be doing yoga and a yoga class.
You know, I think yoga is about mindfulness and an, a body awareness and, you know, a sense of balance. You know, people think of yoga as just stretching, but in a typical yoga class, there's an element of strength and stability and stretching and breath, awareness and relaxation, as well as maybe empowerment or you know, mental visualizations.
There's so much to it that, you know, there's many different ways. I think that you can bring yoga into your life. It doesn't have to be, you know, a, a typical yoga class, and maybe many people are already doing that.
Jonathan Levi: So, that's an interesting point talking about the benefits. I think if I were in the audience right now, I would be asking myself and, you know, folks who listen to the show are typically very self-improvement-oriented and very interested in trying out new things.
I would be asking myself. How do I know if this is something I should investigate? Like what benefits should I be desiring? Or what symptoms should I be experiencing to where I say, Hey, yoga is probably something I really need to check out.
Yolanda Williams: Yeah. And I think that's a great question for a lot of things that our medical system doesn't necessarily have the answer to.
And I don't know that, that anyone has the answer to that. I think, you know, with yoga, I think it is about, you know, trying it in my experience, working with athletes a lot. At the Nike headquarters. You know, I think one thing that they've found is if I had told them some magical way of knowing that I don't know that it would have answered their question, but having gone to some classes and experienced it, I know that many of those athletes, you know, found something that maybe they didn't even know that their bodies needed, but not necessarily as something, even in words, as much as a physical experience of the way they are in their bodies, the way they feel in their bodies, the way that they understand their bodies.
You know, for me, working with athletes, a big part of it is, you know, obviously how they feel getting them to feel better, preventing injuries, you know, all of these important things as an athlete, but also just their ability to notice their bodies and to notice things that they do and before.
Tiffany Cruikshank: So, I mean, it's tricky question, I think to answer, I mean, you know, in, in medicine. This is always the thing is like, how do you know where to go? How do you know where to send someone and, you know, referrals? There's not always an easy way. You know, I think health and wellness and, you know, especially if you're an athlete looking for, you know, performance is, you know, it's a journey.
And I recommend, you know, with athletes, especially, you know, trying it out and seeing, and just remembering, you know, that there are many different ways and there are many different reasons, you know, My business, yoga medicine, we train teachers to really be able to work one-on-one with people so that if they have injuries or if they're training for something or they're sick, or they're working with a doctor that, you know, they can really apply it in a very specific way for them, you know, which you don't really get in a group class as much, you know, you kind of did a very focused connection to the practice or purpose and the practice, you know, and if you're working on things like that, I think it is helpful to probably work with someone individually.
There are many different reasons. You know, you can go to yoga for better attention, better memory, better learning, and you can go for better performance or muscle recovery, you know, for athletes who aren't feeling like they're able to recover properly or quick enough, or are just looking to add new things to their training protocol, to make them better at it.
Jonathan Levi: Right. You totally read my mind because I was going to say, you know, joint mobility, strength. Blah, blah blah. So on and so forth, like, are we missing any of the benefits, you know, heightened focus, heightened attention, really a ton of overlap with the other meditative benefits. And then I would argue decreased blood pressure, probably decreased cortisol.
I haven't checked the research, but it's reasonable to assume any other kind of benefits that we're potentially missing. Ah, increased the digestive function is something that's actually been shown, which is pretty interesting.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Cardio muscular function, you know, anxiety, depression. I mean, whether you're an athlete or not, I think anxiety and depression are a big part of, you know, influencing factors on the rest of our body and our health as well.
Jonathan Levi: Totally. I just finished recording a course on testosterone and endocrine function. And, uh, just like this habit that we tend to use stress. Like we use coffee and we tend to abuse both of them because they motivate us. Not super good for your endocrine system. It turns out like pretty toxic way to live your life and end up with adrenal fatigue.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah. And I mean, along those lines, I think, you know, yoga a big part of it. What we see with the research of yoga is the effects on, you know, the parasympathetic and, you know, obviously within that, the effects on the adrenals and the endocrine system come as a result too, you know, our, just our ability to relax, you know, the relaxation response is like any other muscle in that, you know, if you're constantly thriving on the stress, as you talk about, it becomes really difficult for us to relax.
And so to build that up, it's just like going to the gym only, instead of lifting weights here, learning to relax. And it becomes a response that needs to be retrained in the body.
Jonathan Levi: Right? One of the most eye-opening episodes for me that we did, we had Dr. Kirk Parsley on the show and he talks about what is it, HRV heart rate variability.
And just how you know, people who have, I always forget if it's parasympathetic or sympathetic, but people who have a more variable heart rate, therefore showing decreased stress response are just better at everything from shooting to handstands, to marathons and everything in between. I think that's so interesting.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah. There's a lot of new research coming out and a lot of different directions that is, uh, I think teaching us all a lot.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. So I have a lot of friends who asked me about meditation. I've become a really big advocate of it. And the question people always ask, you know, whether it's the speed reading classes or the meditation, they're like, okay, how much do I have to do before I actually feel a difference? And I always tell them with meditation, like 15 to 20 minutes a day for a month, you will start noticing a difference in your temperament. What about yoga?
I mean, when does people start noticing a transformation in their body awareness, in their focus, and their attention?
Tiffany Cruikshank: Well, I think actually most people, when they go even to their first class will experience an effect.
I mean, obviously, there's other things that can get in the way, like sometimes your first class you're so worried about sweating or what you're wearing or the person next to you, sometimes that can get in the way, but for people, whoever to just show up and kind of drop into it, I find and depending on the class and the person, most people will feel an effect right away.
Now, is that going to stay, you know, is that going to last more than a few hours afterwards? You know, maybe, maybe not. But what I usually say to people is, you know, you go and you do something. I mean, really anything, you know, once a week. And you're constantly coming back to like that new starting point, you know, or that same place.
So to do something twice a week, you know, you're kind of maintaining your kind of you know, able to kind of stay at that status quo and not be kind of coming back each time, three, four, five times a week. And obviously, you're going to be making progress now, you know, I don't necessarily believe that that needs to be an hour and a half yoga class, or even an hour yoga class.
You know, there's a lot of great online classes now where you can do a 20 minute or 30-minute yoga class. You know, I'm the same with meditation. Like I don't believe that people have to be sitting for half an hour, an hour, I think even five or 10 minutes, you know, for people that we've seen in research that five or 10 minutes or people can have a profound effect, you know, months later even potentially.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely.
Tiffany Cruikshank: So, I, I don't think it needs to be a lot, but you know, for the nervous system and you know, this idea now of neuroplasticity, that we now understand that the nervous system can change. You know, the most important part of that is that we're doing something regularly. So to me, it's not so much that people are doing it for long periods of time. As much as that they're doing it regularly.
When I started seeing patients. One thing I noticed really quickly was that the patients that I was seeing who are yoga students responded much quicker. They seem to get better, a lot faster. Their bodies, you know, we're more resilient somehow. And so eventually a light went off in my head and I was like, Oh, well, maybe I should give my patients who are not yoga students and, you know, some yoga postures.
And I, I started playing with it and noticing that, you know, giving them these things to do on their own, whether it was meditation or breath work, or yoga postures themselves, that they did get better a lot quicker. And so I started kind of using this concept of what I call the yoga prescriptions.
And it's, it's one thing I use a lot with my teachers that I train is just a few poses. I rarely gave my patients more than three poses. In fact, it was usually more like one or two poses to do, and that the frequency was really the most important part of it. And using it as very specific things as an adjunct to their, you know, whatever they were coming in into me for.
But, you know, I think that that's the potency of it and my experience is not that it needs to be a lot.. You know, at the beginning as you're learning, and you're just saying, I think familiar with your body and how to relax. It can be really helpful to go, you know, to a longer class or to maybe meet with someone privately for longer periods of time, once a week or so.
But that. You know, during the week that frequency, it doesn't need to be very long, you know, 20 minutes can be enough.
Jonathan Levi: Amazing. It reminds me, we had a, an interview with the neuroscientist and Dr. Andrew Hill, who said, it doesn't matter how long you meditate, as long as you meditate every day or something like that.
And it's still true. Like even five minutes just makes all the difference in the world. You notice if you skip a day like I had a blowout on Friday and I was like, Oh man, I rushed through my morning. And I was like, I'll do it tonight. And I just was so much more reactive than I should have been. Like I apologize the person out there who got the receiving email, I semi apologize. Cause you, you didn't deserve that. You know.
Tiffany Cruikshank: That's funny. I mean, and it's true. I mean, in my book, I had people start with three minutes a day, so, and I've seen research down as low as three minutes a day, where they've looked at people meditating and it's. You know, it doesn't take a lot, but you know, I'm the same if I don't do it in the mornings, it doesn't get done. You keep putting it off.
Jonathan Levi: I have a lot of views about Western medicine and kind of very kind of cynical views, especially about the pharmaceutical industry and stuff like that. And, and I'm a product of it as we all are. And I've been medicated for different things throughout my life as we all have been, but I just love that this like 5,000-year-old practice comes along and it's just like, yeah and it's more effective than like Ritalin and it makes kids calm down. It, it also reduces your blood pressure better than Loba stat and like, boom, drop the mic. It's just fantastic to me. It's and you know.
Tiffany Cruikshank: It's just when there's positive side effects.
Jonathan Levi: Totally.
Tiffany Cruikshank: I didn't, you know, there was a time and a place for sure for the pharmaceuticals and the Western medicine, but it's nice. I mean, I think our first line of defense should be the simple things and the things that have the positive side effects.
Jonathan Levi: I couldn't agree with you more. I could not agree with you more. I wanted to ask you as well, just on a side note, do you both meditate and have a yoga practice? You personally speaking?
Tiffany Cruikshank: Absolutely. I mean, for me, I meditate every morning and that's, you know, if I were to skip one of the two, it would probably be the yoga over the meditation. I practice most days I practiced probably six days, most weeks, sometimes that's 30 minutes. Sometimes that's two hours.
Jonathan Levi: Two hours of meditation?
Tiffany Cruikshank: Of yoga. No, most days my meditation is 20 to 30 minutes. I think for me, you know, I'm busy. Like everyone else's, I don't know that there's anyone else on this world who's not busy and trying to squeeze everything in, you know, for me having that kind of that more middle ground of a meditation practice of 20 to 30 minutes where I don't have to feel like you know, I'm limiting anything else or I can't fit it in, you know, is, is really important to me. Something that's simple but long enough that I can really extract what I need.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely. And I think, you know, I, I kind of want to mention that I feel like meditation. It gives you the same benefits as yoga, but it's actually a lot more difficult because the goal of meditation is like to focus on one thing, right?
It's not to clear your mind as so many people think, and typically that's either a mantra or your breath or your heartbeat or the third eye. And as concentrating on things go, that's a lot more difficult than concentrating on position of your body. You know, when you're straining and it's hard and you're on one hand in one leg, you know, in this kind of like warrior pose, that's pretty easy to focus on because there's discomfort associated and there's stretching sensations and stuff. So, I almost feel like yoga is a really great entry-level meditation.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Absolutely. You know what I mean, that's traditionally how it was approached. You know, the first step was, you know, in a traditional practice, you know, you modify some things in your lifestyle. There's these rules of non-violence and contentment and all these kind of preliminary things, but really the first step is you know, the Austin of practice, it's the physical postures and you know, one that the physical postures are there to help you feel more comfortable in your body so that you can sit, but they're also there to help train that one-pointed focus, as you mentioned, it's much easier, you know, to focus in a yoga practice or a physical practice, you know.
And so in many ways, it's probably maybe the answer to your previous question too, is, you know, what are you missing? Well, You know, the yoga can definitely help improve the meditation. It can definitely be more accessible for people who are new and much easier to attempt. And, you know, in the traditional practice, it's the asanas, then it's the pranayama.0.
So it's the breathing exercises then, which helped to regulate the nervous system. You know, the breath is the one part that can cross over the automatic and the controlled part of the nervous system. So very important kind of gateway into our regulation of this nervous system. And as well as the parasympathetic and sympathetic.
Which is where we see a lot of the effects of the yoga practice coming. A lot of the research coming in the meditation as well. So the pranayama is a kind of a more, really specific way of working more deeply on the nervous system. And then the last step is the meditation and the meditation, you know, in traditional practices was meant to bring you to a point where you can kind of experience that oneness and that wholeness in everything.
And, you know, I think as an athlete, you know, you experienced this, you know, in some ways, in moments as kind of that zone as that place where, you know, you feel very connected to yourself, as well as, you know, in a more spiritual practice, this connection to, you know, life and the world around us and our communities and people around us.
Jonathan Levi: So that's really super interesting. I never knew, I always thought that there was this triad of Ayurveda meditation yoga. I never knew that one was often used as a lead into the other. I think that's really, really interesting. That's something that should come up a lot more. You know, given how much we're all touting.
I mean, everyone out there is touting meditation, but no one has stopped and said like, Hey, this stuff's really, really freaking hard. You might want to some yoga, I guess it's hard. I always tell people that it is so hard. It sounds like Paris has this really nice post about it. And he's like, you know, I'll explain to you how to meditate, but it's like explaining tightrope, walking withstand on the line, walk don't fall, you know, it's like, there's so much nuance to what you need to do.
Tiffany Cruikshank: It's so true. It's like the yoga itself that Austin has, can be so complex and different styles now and alignment and anatomy. And you know, it really is a physical therapy in many ways. And yet, you know, then you get to the pranayama, the breath control, which is much simpler.
And then you get to the meditation. That's like, not just sit. It is it's hard. You know, I think nowadays, you know, that's a very much the traditional view of it, you know, this progression and nowadays, you know, a lot of people don't necessarily use that. You know, I, I don't necessarily always start people with yoga, you know, I think for some people meditation can be an easier way to sneak it in, at least all they have to do is sit. They don't have to get on yoga clothes and do things and find a place to go, and it can be more accessible in some ways.
So I don't think it has to be approached that way, but for people who struggle with meditation, I definitely think yoga can be a great gateway into that.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah, absolutely. So, Tiffany, I wanted to ask you as well, Acupuncture. I know, you know, you have this knowledge of all things kind of Eastern and Western. It sounds like where does acupuncture fit in? I've kind of really become super interested in this idea of ch'i and energies. I've had a couple really super intense experiences in the last few months that have given me a lot more faith in it. So I kind of wanted to open that conversation up.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah. I mean, my best explanation, you know, I think in that this is a very general sense, you know, there's this idea in Chinese medicine and obviously, it's a very, very intricate system. You know you go to Chinese medicine school for four years, kind of like you went for, for Western medicine. So, you know, to overly simplify it, you know, it's this idea in Chinese medicine that, you know, our bodies are made to be able to heal and repair themselves. There's all these, you know, as we know, in a Western sense as well, these checks and regulations built into it. And so the meridians are these energy pathways through the body.
You can think of them like rivers, you know, like tributaries through the body, delivering nutrients, not too unlike the blood circulation, even though they are very separate in Chinese medicine, but there's this idea that the body knows how to heal itself. And when there's this kind of free flow of cheer energy in the body, as well as blood through the body, That the body can heal and repair that it's able to do that when there becomes an obstruction or blockage, whether that's from someone punching you or falling or torn muscle, or, you know, these blockages can also come up as emotional causes as well.
That can create those blockages on a more energetic level. But when there's a blockage of the body is may be potentially not able to heal that a repair that maybe there's pain, maybe there's this comfort. It can also affect the organs. These meridians are you know, the surface meridians that we look at, there's many different meridians in the body, but there are meridians that lie on the surface, which is what we need all an acupuncture.
But these meridians also dive into the organs deeply into the body. And so they communicate and connect with the organs. And so even these surface meridians, which might seem very much like you're needling the muscles and the fascia or the skin also communicate with the organ. So, you know, the acupuncture is done.
It's a, you know, there's hundreds of points, you know, you study for it for many years to figure out how to utilize it. But, you know, it's kind of like tuning that system so that your body can do what it's good at. You know, this implication that our bodies do know how to heal and you know, this ability to kind of recreate balance within the body so that it can do what it's good at.
Jonathan Levi: That's fascinating. And you know, what else I wonder is like, it's so interesting when there's kind of this congruence and I've heard a lot about shockers and stuff like that in the Hindu kind of thought process and tradition. Is there a commonality between that and the Chinese idea of Ch'i?
Tiffany Cruikshank: You know, there's not a perfect correlation.
I would say, you know, there's definitely overlap in, you know, the the Indian system, you know, we see this idea of noughties as kind of similar to the energy channels and points in the acupuncture system though. You know, acupuncture was really, though, some people will talk about, you know, we do see there was some acupuncture being done in India, you know, for the majority of it were, you know, started to originate in China.
So, you know, we don't talk about it in correlation to acupuncture as much, but there is still this idea of energy centers. The chakra is you know themselves specifically the seven chakras in the body that run along the spine. You know, I wouldn't say that there's a really exact correlation in Chinese medicine.
There are some small overlaps, but this idea that the body is made up of energy centers and really in Chinese medicine, we look at the meridians and there are these maybe 500 or hundreds of points. But even beyond that, you know, the idea is that there's energy everywhere, you know, and the same is true in Indian, you know, in the Ayurvedic system is that there's these noughties and there's, there's the shock rows, which are kind of really great energy centers is big hubs you could think of, but that there are these smaller energy centers really.
Everywhere in the body. So there's definitely some overlap and I'm not an expert in the Indian side, the Ayurvedic side of that specifically, but you know, there definitely is overlap though. They are still very different. Interesting.
Jonathan Levi: Very, very interesting. Like I said, I've had some very recent kind of transformative experiences involving energies and flows of energy. And one of the questions I wanted to ask you is, I mean, I don't even know what to look in Google. Like where can I go about learning more about things like ch'i and acupuncture?
Are there any kind of resources that you would recommend checking out?
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah, I mean, there's definitely a lot of books and there's probably some newer ones too, that I'm not familiar with, but the kind of the traditional ones. There's a couple for people who are interested. One is called The Web That Has No Weaver. Which is a great one. It definitely gives a little bit more detailed, but maybe some people might want, but it's kind of the book that they usually recommend for people considering going into Chinese medicine.
There's another one more on kind of the more energetic side of it called Between Heaven and Earth, which is a great one for more of the more esoteric, more emotional connections, different character, personality types, and things like that. So those are good references. Obviously you can find a lot of information on the internet.
I think one of my favorite descriptions for Ch'iis is this idea that it's really energy on the verge of materializing. So it's this sensation of energy inside of us before it actually creates a movement or an articulation, which is why it has been so hard to research and really pinpoint and find we really haven't been able to nail it down exactly what this energy thing is yet.
You know, we found a lot of suggestions, but you know, It's the reason why we can't really kind of look at it specifically.
Jonathan Levi: Right. And, you know, I, I'm sure there's someone in the audience saying like, wow, this sounds like a lot of woo woo. But my big realization with this was just the idea. I've been reading a little bit about like quantum mechanics and a little bit about physics.
And I came to this realization that like all matter is energy as are we, and therefore, you know, energy can influence energy. The same way that dropping an ice cube into boiling hot water can make it stop boiling. And that was my kind of huge realization is like, Oh my God, if we're energy, we can be influenced by the energy of others.
And we might call that emotion, the limbic system pheromones, but like when you're really happy and someone is really, really angry, there's a flow of energy by whatever mechanism you want to call it. And there's a meeting of those energies. And I just had this huge epiphany around that.
Tiffany Cruikshank: And there's so much information. I feel like coming out on that in particular on quantum mechanics and quantum physics right now about, you know, our bodies and you know, this energy concept of the bodies that we're, we're still really figuring out, but it's definitely an area of growth for sure.
Jonathan Levi: Definitely, I actually wanted to ask you, I mean, are there any kind of studies or any recent publications that you would point me to, to kind of learn more about this and kind of tie back this experience that I had to reality?
Tiffany Cruikshank: Gosh, not anything that comes to mind right off of hand, but there's definitely always things coming up. Yeah. I don't have anything right off the top of my head for you.
Jonathan Levi: Fair enough. We can keep in touch and chat about it and pass articles back and forth. Tiffany, I wanted to ask you, who are your gurus and who do you look up to and admire?
Tiffany Cruikshank: You know, I think that's a tricky question. I feel like for me, you know, in the yoga world, there's tends to be this kind of tradition of being taught one person to another. And in my experience, you know, there's so much information out there to learn from. I feel like for me personally, because I am such this a fusion of more the tradition with the modern aspect.
I feel like I learned something from really everyone, everyone who empowered to, you know, push themselves to, to learn more, to do better, to be better, to help their communities, to serve their communities. There's some great yoga teachers out there doing great things. Gary Kraftsow is kind of a pioneer in the yoga therapeutics.
Seane Corn is a, definitely someone I admire for her activism and all that she does in that realm as a yoga teacher. And then, you know, everything in between my family and my friends, you know, I think everyone is really such a source of inspiration. As you look at people, each contributing what they're good at, you know, I don't think in my opinion, that there's one thing that's better than the other is, you know, we, we live together, we survive based on, you know, the people bringing us our water and the people taking away our trash and the scientists who learn and inspire us.
So yeah, I think. You know, the guru, the teacher, I think is one both in inside of each of us. You know, we, we learn from our own experience as well as you know, everything around us. I don't know that there's one answer to that for me.
Jonathan Levi: Fair enough. I love that answer. You know, I'm all about learning and accelerated learning. And one of the things we teach in our course is this idea of brute force learning and how to take in information from as many sources as possible. And not just read one book, not just watch videos on YouTube, but really diverse sources, you know, read the opinion and the counter-opinion kind of holistic learning approach. So I can totally respect that. There's no one guru who comes to mind.
Tiffany, well I know we're coming up on time here. One, it asks you second to last question here. If people want to learn more about you check out your work, check out your books. I'm sure we'll link to the books in the blog episode, but where can people learn more about you and reach out to you?
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yeah, it's just YogaMedicine.com and we also have a link on their page to find a teacher where you can link up with a teacher. If you're looking for someone to study within a group, as well as privates, we've worked really hard on it recently, actually. So you can see exactly. What they've trained in with us so that if you have a shoulder injury, you can find someone who's studied the shoulder module with us or the Chinese medicine module.
So there's a great resource for people looking to learn more or to study yoga. And then we have a blog on there and all sorts of other resources.
Jonathan Levi: Fantastic. Fantastic, so, I'll ask you our last question that we always like to close on, which is if people take away just one lesson from this episode and they carry it with them for the rest of their lives, what would you hope for that lesson to be?
Tiffany Cruikshank: I would say focus on the small things. You know, I think nowadays we tend to focus on the big things and the things that we can create and see benefits from. But the small things, you know, both, you know, as far as the nervous system goes and yoga and meditation, as well as in our lives, the small things that we do with, you know, presence and purpose in our lives, I think really are the ones that create the big changes, both in ourselves, as well as our communities.
Jonathan Levi: That's a fantastic note to end on. Tiffany, I want to thank you so much for spending your time with us today. And I definitely learned a ton. I'm sure our audience did as well. And I do hope we keep in touch.
Tiffany Cruikshank: Thanks, Jonathan. It was great to be here.
Jonathan Levi: Awesome. Well, take care and have a wonderful, wonderful day or evening. I'm not actually sure where you are.
Tiffany Cruikshank: You as well.
Jonathan Levi: All right, SuperFriends that's it for this week's episode. We hope you really, really enjoyed it and learn a ton of applicable stuff that can help you go out there and overcome the impossible. If so, please do us a favor and leave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, or however you found this podcast.
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Closing: Thanks for tuning in to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast for more great skills and strategies, or for links to any of the resources mentioned in this episode, visit www.becomingasuperhuman.com/podcast.
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