How do Traditional Chinese Medicine and yoga complement each other?


How do Traditional Chinese Medicine and yoga complement each other, and how does it inform you as a yoga teacher?


For me, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) really helps to decode the individual I'm working with. We often talk about it as the root and the branches. The root is someone’s unique individual makeup, their constitution, versus the branches being the symptoms.

Maybe someone has headaches, indigestion & back pain, but underneath it, in Chinese medicine, we’re looking at the root diagnosis of what’s driving those symptoms. I always compare it to a game of Connect The Dots. When someone comes to you as a yoga teacher and they say "I have back pain, what should I do?" I always joke in our trainings that that’s just one dot, it’s just one piece of information that doesn’t tell me that much about the person and what’s really going on.

In some ways it’s harder when teachers leave our trainings because now they have so much information swimming on their head. We can give general things that can be generally helpful, but without knowing someone, without getting more dots, I don't really know who this person is to build or draw the picture of what's going on and what might be most helpful to them as a whole person.

For instance, you might have 20 people coming with headaches in Chinese medicine, but will potentially have a different cause and a different approach needed. With headaches, some people find inversions make their headaches better, some find that makes it terribly worse. Some find that movement helps or makes it worse. There are so many things to adjust.

Rather than starting from scratch and trying all of those options, I can collect information from the person and sketch a picture in my head to support them more uniquely & three dimensionally.

Then of course, like anything, I have to start to move forward and, err on the safer side so that I don't make things worse, experiment and see what helps. Even the best theory, whether that’s western medicine or eastern medicine, still has to be tested out. Not everyone's going to respond in a perfect way.

The great thing about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that the meridians tie into this to give us more physical access points to work with in the practice and the asana. It’s really helpful.

I feel like for those in yoga, so many of the yogic books are a great reference for "do this for headaches or do this for this." But it’s not that straightforward, so I really like teaching yoga teachers how to decode and individualize their work to the student in front of them to make what they do really potent.

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Written by Tiffany Cruikshank
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Tiffany Cruikshank is the founder of Yoga Medicine®, a community of teachers focused on fusing anatomy and western medicine with traditional yoga practices to serve the medical communities. Cruikshank has trained thousands of teachers around the world, graced the cover of over 15 magazines, been featured regularly in major media outlets, authored two books, and released over 150 classes on various topics on


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