On Monday I had my very first root canal. The path to this procedure was not a pretty one. After a palliative treatment in Brookings, Oregon by a dentist with ridiculously poor bedside manner, I went to a proper endodontist and had the whole procedure done properly. She had great bedside manner-- she shook my hand, explained every aspect of what was going on, showed me the x-rays. But still, two full hours with your mouth pried open to its maximum, a dental dam strapped on your face and mini pick axes, mile-long needles, and burning tools passing in and out of ones mouth is traumatic.
Of course I had a local anesthetic-- I'm no James Frey (oh yeah, he lied about that didn't he?)--so I couldn't feel the pain, but the amount of emotional anxiety I had going into the procedure combined with the technical aspects of any root canal, rendered me close to psychotically anxious. From the beginning of the drilling to the final moments when the dentist replaced the filling on top of my now dead tooth, I had to summon all of my yoga strength. I had to figure out how to breathe with the rubber dam and my jaw aching from being open. I had to virtually dissociate from the sounds and smells created by the drilling, sterilizing and filling of my roots. I had to tell myself 407 times, "This too shall pass."
This morning when I was teaching a hot-ass class, I watched the hard-working 6AM students do Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee pose. I could see the sweat dripping into their eyes, their noses; I could see them struggling to get or to keep their foreheads to their sweaty knees. As they struggled, I reminded them to try to breathe normally. I remember when a teacher first said that to me during that pose. I thought, "Yeah right, asshole." It's hard to breathe normally in that pose. But today, I said, "Breathe normally like you do when you're getting a root canal." I had a wholly different perspective. It is possible. It's hard, but it's possible. The root canal sucked, but the moments of intense gratitude I found from my yoga in the process was the silver lining.