Lessons from the Dreaded Dentist’s Chair - Just Breathe
I arrived for my two hour dental appointment to replace a filling and cleaning. My stomach was in knots and I was filled with a deep sense of dread of the impending pain to come. I absolutely despise having my mouth opened wide - I grind my teeth, so my jaws never appreciate maintaining a gaping posture.
Instead of focusing on the pain, I decided to take control of my body. I put my earphones on, found soothing music and began deep abdominal breathing. I paid close attention to the muscles in my body, scanning for areas of tension and involuntary clenching. I used long slow exhales to soften my muscles from head to toe. I was starting to relax, until the high pitched, screaming drilling began. So, I began a tension and relaxation exercise to divert my focus elsewhere. As I inhaled, I clenched both fists. Upon exhaling, I slowly unfurled my fingers and spread them wide. I was able to begin drowning out that awful drilling sound as well as the acrid smell of filling being chipped away. By no means did the two hour appointment fly by, but I felt controlled, calmer, and more peaceful than I have ever felt in a dentist’s chair.
This was yoga in action. Pain can be alleviated with slow, deep, continuous breathing. Our bodies release natural chemical pain relievers in response to controlled breathing. Never underestimate the power of the breath.
Supported Warrior III in the Pool
The community shares strength in this beautiful pose.
THANKS TO THE ANGRY LADY IN THE POOL
Last week, I was teaching aqua yoga. We were in the usual lane at the far end if the pool. As usual, there was a sign posted on the door stating that yoga and meditation class was in session for the next hour; thus quiet was encouraged. This class has been ongoing for almost a full year.
On this particular day, a regular swimmer, usually choosing the lane in the opposite side of the pool, approached the lane adjacent to us. As she strolled toward the lane, she energetically threw her aqua bells into the water. She then proceeded to jump into the water and bob up and down, noisily. It was very effective. Normally, I would have taken personal offense to her disturbance, but this time, I was rather intrigued, slightly amused, even. I noted her vigorous entrance with detached curiosity and awe.
So I decided to add her turbulent waters to our practice. I was teaching warrior I. My next instruction was to challenge my students to maintain balance and poise regardless of the circumstances. My students remained steadfast in their strong warriors and smiled slightly to acknowledge the lesson.
I found out after class that the angry lady does not believe in yoga. What did I learn? There are no accidents. Things happen and it is the individual’s responsibility to react or respond. I decided to observe, respond, and stay in balance as a teacher.
Thanks to the angry lady for helping me to grow in my teaching and confidence.
Beautiful words from one of my treasured students:
"As a new student of water yoga, I had observed my instructor who was often heavily covered in perspiration while she taught. I was puzzled with this appearance because she reflected me working with the recreation facility’s weights and machines. I was completely soaking wet. As I progressed in the class, I realized that this was due to the intensity of yoga, working on breathing, form and application from within the body. In yoga the same muscles were worked but with more concentration of the internal structure and envisioning the muscles used in each pose. It is not easy. Continuing to attend class I am becoming more focused, concentrating on yoga and its application to relax and to strengthen my body. "
Caregivers Need Care Too
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there were 39.6 million people aged 65 and older in 2009 (12.9% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans). Furthermore, it is predicted that by 2030, there will be approximately double the number of older people as in 2000. With the growing older population, the prevalence of chronic illness is on the rise. For example, according to the World Health Organization, it is estimated “that dementia affected 35.6 million people globally in 2011 with the rate expected to grow as the population ages”. Not only are those suffering with chronic illnesses prone to symptoms of anxiety and depression, but so are their caregivers.
Studies have shown that yoga alleviates stress and increases a sense of emotional wellbeing. In a 2007 study in Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine people with major depression experienced improvements in mood, anger, anxiety, and heart rate after performing yoga. In a 2004 study from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, five weeks of twice-weekly yoga classes resulted in similar benefits. A most recent study in the journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity, showed that when subjects practiced meditation, they had decreased feelings of loneliness and a reduction in the expression of genes known to be linked with inflammation. For caregivers, a recent study in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry showed that meditation caused decreased symptoms of depression and cellular aging from stress.
As our aging population grows, it is imperative that we not only provide the best possible support for them, but for ourselves as caregivers too. Yoga offers a plethora of techniques for all ages and physical abilities to maintain health and alleviate stress.