Yoga for Dental Professionals
Yoga is an ancient practice that encompasses several physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines. Many people are familiar with some of the basic postures and breathing exercises. The aim is to focus the mind, achieve relaxation, and increase well-being. Many people assume that you have to be flexible to practice yoga, but this is not the case. Yoga will gradually increase your flexibility with practice.
So why should dentists do yoga? There are many benefits for dental professionals. Yoga can improve our ability to handle difficult situations with a greater sense of calm, increased strength, and flexibility of both body and mind. Yoga can help prevent the onset of many musculoskeletal concerns commonly associated with dentistry such as back, shoulder, and neck pain.
Breath awareness and breath control are great tools for relaxation and calming the body. When we are stressed, our breathing rate increases, sending our bodies into stress mode, also known as “fight or flight”. When we make the conscious decision to calm our breath, take control, and relax, we can lower our hearth rate.
A few years ago, I started to pay more attention to my breathing throughout the day while I was practicing. Performing highly technical dental procedures can be stressful. There were times I found myself actually holding my breath while working! I felt the stress it would cause my body. Once I became aware of it, I started to focus on maintaining equanimity between each inhale and exhale. What I had perceived to be a stressful situation could become more manageable once my body was able to maintain calm.
Doctors aren’t the only ones experiencing stress in the dental office, what about the patients? I have successfully used breathing exercises with patients before administering local anesthetic. I have them take a few deep breaths in and out through their nose. I then have them close their eyes and focus on each inhale and exhale throughout the numbing process. I have found this to be a great relaxation tool.
Dentistry is a physically demanding profession. We spend a large part of our day hunched over a patient in a seated position. Yoga can help to improve posture and condition the body to prevent injuries by increasing strength in our muscles. There are many simple exercises and yoga poses that can be done anytime throughout the day and even in between patients. This makes it accessible to everyone!
–This article originally appeared in the San Antonio District Dental Society member newsletter in the Spring 2015.