We take dental health pretty seriously in my family. Always got our cleanings every six months. Brushed, flossed and rinsed as instructed. Our heightened sense of responsibility to our teeth was because a family history of soft gums and teeth. Over the years, I was much luckier than others and only had to deal with the occasional cavity. My ticking tooth time bomb were the gums around my wisdom teeth. Earlier this past week, the area around my right lower wisdom tooth became inflamed. As the days went by, the pain increased and I had to get to the dentist. I called Thursday morning and snagged a 10:30AM appointment.
My dentist almost immediately suggested an extraction of not only the lower right tooth but the top one. The next thing said was, “would you like to get it done today?” Before I knew it, I have a 2:00PM appointment for oral surgery. I should have known this was coming, but the anxiety hit me like a brick. My dentist did his best to calm my nerves that morning noting, “it will be better to get it over with today than sitting and thinking about it for days.”
I returned to the dentist office with my support system in tow. Hans sat in the corner of the room, his hand on my foot as I went through the procedure. As the dentist injected the Novocaine, he said to Hans, “she bruises easily, huh?” Images of my black and blue swollen face post-surgery came to mind. This wasn’t helping to reduce my nervousness. He got the top tooth out fairly quickly but saw how much anguish I was putting myself through. He suggested taking a quick break so I could relax before moving on to pull the more difficult tooth.
When I was ready, he got started on the removal of my bottom tooth. I’ve learned to close my eyes the entire time during a dental procedure, but the sound effects and physical motions of this procedure were starting to really get to me. In addition to the one being infected, the base of my lower tooth grew at an angle, potentially making its extraction more difficult. My dentist prepped me that he possibly would have to break the tooth into separate pieces to get it out.
While I put on a brave face and let him continue, I was a mess inside. I was scared I was going to be black and blue, swollen and with a broken jaw. I was afraid of the pain that would come about after the drugs wore off. I was afraid of being out of control in the situation I was in. There was very little I could do to ensure a positive result for the procedure. So I focused on what I could do: try to calm down.
My first step: to start breathing. As a self-described “non-breather”, I realized several times throughout the procedure that I wasn’t breathing. I was holding my breath and bracing myself – much like I do when I’m uneasy. While the dentist worked like a man on a tug-of-war team, I focused on creating a regular, steady breath pattern. I immediately noticed my body relax from my shoulders down to my feet. With this, I realized I was in a familiar pose – one usually done on a yoga mat.
Savasana – or Corpse Pose – typically concludes your yoga session. It may just seem like you are laying there, doing nothing. In actuality, it gives you the chance to reflect on your practice while bringing you back to the world around you. I’ve been enjoying the physical benefits from my yoga practice, but I had yet to find a moment to put my newly developed mental relaxation techniques to use. Until now.
I treated the moment as though I was on my mat at yoga class. I put my hands at my side palms up, allowed my feet to roll out, let my shoulders blades relax down my back and focused on my breath. This physical act transported me somewhere else. I was no longer having a tooth ripped from my mouth – I was in a calm place that I felt safe in. Before I knew it, the tooth was out of my mouth and the dentist was ready to suture.
I never expected to have a yogi moment during this type of situation. As I laid in the dentist chair, I could have let my anxiety grow. My tenseness would have made the dentist’s job harder to do. Instead of focusing on my stress, I used my yoga training to lead me back to a calm state. I am so happy to see this progress not only in my practice, but in my stress management journey. Now if I can only find a practical purpose for Revolved Triangle Pose!
Have you ever had an out of body experience in an unusual place?