Open up to Yoga:
A perspective on the practice of yoga and how it can help our practice of dentistry
The practice of dentistry is very demanding technically, physically and psychologically. Yoga can be a wonderful discipline to add into our week to support ourselves as dental health care providers. Yoga is an ancient practice that has been around for over 5,000 years. It is a physical practice that was developed to strengthen, support and purify our bodies and our minds, but the physical practice also teaches lessons that we can take into our personal and professional lives.
To me, yoga is so much more than postures practiced on a mat -- yoga helps me to see life through a different lens. That is why I love and connect with Patanjali’s sutra that says, “Yoga is seeing life the way it is." Each time we come to the yoga mat we are never the same person. If we’re lucky, our body feels great and we are in a good mood. But most of the time during yoga practice we are facing challenges -- body, mind, and life challenges. Yoga teaches that when we encounter those challenges, we need to acknowledge them, accept them, have compassion for them, and move through them without judgment.
Whenever I am on my yoga mat, I accept that some days I can balance and some days I can’t. Some days my body can move with ease, and some days it’s just not in the cards. It doesn’t matter to me anymore if I can or can’t do something on my mat because as I am moving through my physical practice, I’m coming face to face with my life at that moment, seeing my true self and accepting things the way they are. All the stress and feelings we experience need a place to go and they love to find places in our bodies to settle. My back, my neck, my hamstrings all speak to me, sometimes not so nicely, and my mind can often be a snow globe. As I work through the yoga postures, my body eases and my mind settles. The practice of yoga can make us strong and flexible in body but even more importantly, it can make us strong and flexible in mind.
We can look at the practice of dentistry in the same way. Every patient and every procedure poses different challenges. We can take our yoga off the mat and bring it into our clinical practice and into the operatory. We can use it to confront our professional and technical challenges, accept them in the moment, and maintain non-judgmental compassion for our patients and for ourselves. Some days we are in the zone, and some days we are not. Some patients are easygoing and friendly, and some are fearful and agitated. When we have nonjudgmental awareness and compassion for whatever is present, we then are practicing yoga on and off the mat. Through yoga we can learn so much about ourselves while we gain strength and flexibility as human beings and as dental professionals.