I went to the dentist yesterday. And it was a dramatic trip to the dentist, not a warm and fuzzy bragging-on-my-teeth sort of trip to the dentist.
When I walked in, the hygienist immediately noticed that something was different from last week. You don't have that crazy look in your eye. You aren't scared today, are you?
And, no, I wasn't.
I had mustered all of my physical prowess, past and present. I went in with this assurance that I can do hard things. I mean, I ran a marathon. I was in discomfort that I was causing for 6 hours. Surely I could spend 2 hours in passive discomfort.
But when I sat in that chair and she laid me back, I imagined myself on a yoga mat. And my lessons from my mat made all of the difference. The awareness that I use in practice translated beautifully to the dentist's chair.
This moment is all that matters. Not the lack of attention and self-care that got me here. Not the pain that may happen in a few minutes. Not the ongoing impact. But this moment. This is the only moment that I am present in, this is the only moment I have to deal with. And I will stay here. No regret, no worry. Just now.
When something isn't right, I will make (or ask for) an adjustment. I was cold, so I asked for a blanket. I needed to swallow so I flagged her down. My leg fell asleep and I motioned and asked to have a wiggle session. My needs deserve to be met.
I can tune into my entire body as a whole, not just one small part. I did not let my back right tooth hold my entire attention. I paid attention to all of me. I have been practicing yoga nidra (here is a 20 minute sample) which starts with a quick and complete body scan. No movement or adjustment, just overall awareness. It is one of my favorite things ever. I just moved through this process repeatedly, and naturally felt myself stop gripping the armrests and start to release my shoulders.
Just as I can relax in the present of difficult emotions, I can also relax during physical anxiety. At one point, I was getting really anxious, kinda claustrophobic. I wanted to swallow every 5 seconds. He had been in there for a long time. And I just wanted out. I wasn't in pain, I wasn't even uncomfortable. I just felt crowded. So I closed my eyes. I practiced single-nostril breathing without using my fingers to squeeze my nose (which makes me feel claustrophobic anyway). I imagined the breath coming up the right side of my body. I held my breath for a beat at the top. Then I felt the air go down the left side of my body as I exhaled. I inhaled through the left side of my body, held the air briefly at the top, and exhaled and pictured the air leaving the right side of my body. It was a way for me to stay connected with the drama on my right side, but getting relief as the air was in my left side. At some point, though, I dropped into Savasana. With four hands in my mouth and a lot of noise. It was cold water that brought me out and I jumped. Not because it hurt, but because I had been super relaxed and came to to find a face RIGHT IN MY FACE. I just had to laugh.
So I am feeling better. And I feel much less dread for the next time I go back.
All because of yoga.