What my toothache is teaching me about asana

metronidazoleSo I’ve had toothache for a while now, and my dentist can’t quite figure it out. She’s put me on antibiotics, slightly out of desperation I think. I’m naturally trying to avoid the pain so I’m eating differently at the moment. I don’t mean diet-wise. More in terms of my physical actions. So I’m eating more slowly and I’m waiting for hot food to cool — I am super sensitive to temperature; it feels as though someone’s hit my poor tooth with a hammer if I eat or drink anything too hot or cold. Luke-warm is the place to be.

The avoidance of pain is of course entirely natural. But after a while the pain-avoidance strategy becomes the new reality, the normal way of doing things. I’m near the end of my course of antibiotics, and I want to know if they’ve helped. But to do that I’ll need to do a test — expose my tooth to a sudden change of temperature and see what happens. I have a certain reluctance to do that…

And I realise that I’m doing something similar in my asana practice. I’m trying to keep really focussed in my practice, aware of sensations in my body and keeping movements deliberate and steady. But my attention span is limited and my concentration is imperfect (ha, what a surprise!). And in being cautious with my healing hamstring tendon, I realise I’m introducing various other imbalances and shortcuts in my practice. There are some obvious modifications that I should still be making and probably will for some time yet. For example I have the most ridiculous-looking forward folds (standing and seated) with knees so bent I feel positively foetal. A dent to my ego, but this is very deliberately done and I can work on it over time when it feels right. For now I’m almost (but not quite!) enjoying it. I find that I can relax my neck and shoulders more in standing folds in this kind of position. An unexpected benefit, and it’s teaching me something about the relationship of one bit of anatomy with another. This kind of experimenting to get comfy in asanas will surely be helpful for my practice, and my attitude to my practice, overall.

So that’s all sounding OK. But I think my downward facing dog is getting weirder in ways I can’t yet define, and in my practice yesterday I became aware that stepping back into downdog from a lunge feels all wrong. I think I’m rolling my pelvis slightly to the side as I do so to compensate for tighter hips… or something like that. I think the only thing to do is to video myself and see what’s going on. Ego-busting as that is…

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