My family has a history of bad teeth. No matter how well I care about them and religiously brush and floss, I always end up with cavities. I’m pretty used about it and make sure I go regularly to the dentist – after seeing both my dad and my brother at the edge of losing their mind due to toothache, I try and make sure that it never happens to me.
But when I moved to the US, navigating this new system of benefits and reimbursement was more complicated than I had expected, and it took me six months to get the right dentist and get an appointment. Overall, almost a year since my last dentist visit – which should be fine for most people, but of course I already had two cavities waiting to be treated. That meant 3 visits total with the initial check-up and cleaning.
I try to use that time at the dentist to practice focused relaxation and deep breathing. I notice how my shoulders get tense and release the tension. I notice my hands are clenching and open my palms. I lift my chest up. I let go of the tension in my legs. I focus my awareness on my breath instead of what’s happening in my mouth. Overall, it makes the experience much easier to go through – the local anesthesia is anyways strong enough that I don’t feel any pain, but it’s never a pleasant experience. I especially dislike the sound of the instrument drilling in the tooth, I think.
Anyhow at the first visit I closed my eyes as the dentist was working on my cleaning, and he immediately stopped and asked if something was wrong and / or if I was in pain. That’s when I realized that most people probably don’t try to close their eyes at the dentist :’) I just said no and since then I’ve tried not to close my eyes at the dentist even if it would help me focus on my breath. I know I don’t like when my students close their eyes in certain poses, and yesterday I heard Lara Warren say to someone with their eyes closed to open them as “it’s nice, you could be thinking about anything there but you’re not really in the present”.
It reminded me of the time I went to the osteopath that my yoga teacher recommended as I had once again displaced my pelvis (yes, it’s a reoccurring event for me since the fist time it happened when I fell down stairs). She asked me about why I was coming to see her and I told her that I displaced my pelvis doing yoga. First astonished face – “usually people don’t actually know what is up with them, just that they have pain”, she says. I heard in her voice that she was astonished again when she checked me standing and it was displaced on the side I told her (right) as she mentioned that people often complain about pain on the opposite side it is usually displaced (!). Finally, when she asked me to lie on my side on the examining table, she started slightly laughing and said “I can always see when people are dancers or yogis, you guys are always so elegant in positioning yourselves on the table! Normal people just roll around!”.
I know I can definitely say quite a bit by the way people hold themselves and their general posture – and I’ve recently been called out in an Iyengar-inspired but not certified yoga class I was at as being “an Iyengar person” – though it might just have been because of the shorts :’D
What are non-obvious practice places where you do practice yoga? Has anyone ever told you it was obvious from your behavior that you were a yoga practitioner? If you haven’t tried practicing at the dentist yet, I highly recommend it 😉