Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tooth Filling, Eating with a Half-Numb Mouth, Karandavasana

"Imagine going to the dentist every day to get the same tooth filled until he gets the filling right, except he never gets it right, and you have to keep going back... Like lifting weights at the gym, Ashtanga could be really tedious, but there was no arguing with the results. When I took non-Ashtanga classes at other studios, the postures suddenly seemed a lot easier and calmer, and I was able to push myself deeper. On off days, I started doing the sequence by myself at home. Muscles began to appear where they'd never appeared before."

Neal Pollack, Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude

If Pollack is right about practicing Ashtanga being like getting a dental filling, then I had two dental-filling experiences today:

Dental Filling Experience #1: I woke up this morning, and did what is now my usual practice (full primary and second up to Karandavasana).

Dental Filling Experience #2: Earlier today, I actually went to the dentist to have a tooth filled. Nothing major, the dentist insists, just a little cavity that is better filled than unfilled (yes, now you know I probably eat too many chocolates and potato chips for my own good...). But still, he put me on local anesthesia. Even now, as I am writing this post almost three hours after the filling, the right side of my mouth and tongue (yes, the right half of my tongue!) is still numb.

Which is the more intense of the two experiences? Right off the top of my head, I would say #1. Unlike having a tooth filled at the dentist's, you cannot do Ashtanga with anesthesia: Which means that the Ashtangi has to face and experience full on, in the raw, all the sensations, pleasant and unpleasant, that the practice brings up. Well, I do know that some Ashtangis out there practice on painkillers (Grimmly actually did a poll on this a few months ago), but that's another story. The whole point of Ashtanga practice (and any kind of yoga practice, really) is to be present with whatever feelings-physical, mental or emotional-that you are experiencing at any given point in time, and it would be quite impossible to be present with a feeling that has been anesthesized away, wouldn't it?

Besides, there are real practical-life dangers to being anethesized. At the end of my dental appointment, I asked the dentist if it was okay to eat. He said yes, but that I should be extra careful with the right side of my mouth; since that side of the mouth lacks sensation, it is quite possible that I might unknowingly bite the right tongue or right lip, resulting in injury.

I decided to put off eating for as long as I could, since my half-numb mouth was feeling weird, even without anything in it; for instance, swallowing felt strange. So I went home, and puttered around the apartment for close to an hour. Finally, I started to feel really hungry, and decided to make myself a sundried-tomato omelette with toast and eat it anyway. Oh, by the way, even the sensation of hunger feels different with a half-numb mouth. Somehow, the hunger seems to be emanating from deeper inside myself. It seems that a big part of what we ordinarily experience as the feeling of hunger is actually mouth-feel (the feeling of the tongue craving certain tastes, the mouth feeling dry, the palate feeling a certain way, etc., etc.). With the mouth half-numb, these mouth-feel sensations become much less pronounced, and one gets to feel the deeper bodily sensations that make up hunger; sensations that are normally obscured by the mouth-feel... Who knew?

As I started eating my omelette and toast, I began to notice red marks on the toast. Hmm, I thought to myself, who knew that they make sundried tomatoes with artificial coloring these days? By the way, aren't these supposed to be organic sundried tomatoes? The food industry is certainly in a very bad place if even organic foods have artificial coloring... And then I noticed the same red coloring on the mug I was drinking from. And then everything dawned on me. I went to the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and realized that somewhere along the way, I had bitten my lower lip without knowing it, and it was now bleeding! But I went on to finish my meal anyway: The one thing that is worse than being a bleeding mess is being a hungry bleeding mess!

But I suppose I should stop talking about my dental-culinary misadventures (like you would care to read a phenomenological exposition of eating with a half-numb mouth, anyway. But maybe the moral of the story is: It is not a good idea to eat with a half-numb mouth). Let me turn our attention to happier matters. Well, sort of... I'll say a couple of things about my Karandavasana practice this morning, and then regale you with a video of somebody (not me) doing Karandavasana. In his recent post about Karandavasana, Grimmly writes,

"We all have a tricky posture or two we're working on and get a little obsessive about, sometimes the whole practice seems to revolve around that one pose, leading up to it, apprehension building and then afterwards we just want to rush through the rest of the practice as if practice ended with that one posture."  

I think this very aptly describes my practice. As a matter of fact, I actually obsess and get anxious more about Kapotasana than about Karandavasana. This is so, even though I am supposed to be more proficient in Kapo than Karandavasana: I have been grabbing either my heels or ankles consistently in Kapo for months now, but my Karandavasana is... well, more on this presently. It's funny; there's just something about a deep backbend (especially Kapo) that makes me a bit apprehensive every single time I approach it, even though I have been doing it regularly for months now. Whereas with Karandavasana, I am aware that it is a physically very challenging posture, but I just go up to the posture, give it my best couple of shots, and then move on. I suppose you can say that I am better able to foster an attitude of non-attachment to Karandavasana than to Kapo.

In any case, here are my two Karandavasana attempts today:

Attempt #1: Went up into Pincha Mayurasana, got my feet into lotus, lost balance, and landed in a seated padmasana.

Rested in a kneeling position for a few breaths, and then:

Attempt #2: Better luck with this one. Went up into Pincha, got my feet into lotus, and held it there for 10 breaths before releasing the feet from lotus, and coming down with my feet flailing in the air like a dog falling from a tall building. Hmm... maybe I can work on this exit too.

Here's a video of David Robson doing Karandavasana:

Pretty cool, eh? Do you now know why I never post any videos of me attempting Karandavasana? :-)

In other news: I have added three new features to this blog: 

(1) There is now a google search engine on the top right-hand corner of this blog, that enables you to search this blog for anything you desire. I installed this after a friend recently told me she was searching my blog for posts I have written relating to SI joint issues, and was having difficulty finding the relevant posts. Hopefully, this search engine will make things easier for anyone who wishes to conduct similar searches. 

(2) There is now a Feedjit Live Traffic Feed on this blog. This doesn't serve any immediate functional purpose; the only thing it has been doing so far is to delude me into thinking that I'm this world-famous blogger who brings great joy and meaning into the lives of many around the world (and maybe even beyond it; perhaps extra-terrestrial beings read my blog too... who knows?).

(3) At the request of a friend who has been having difficulty commenting on my posts, I have now changed the settings of this blog to allow for anonymous comments. So those of you out there who have been yearning to say something on my posts, but who, for whatever reason, do not want to be identified, your dilemma has been resolved!

I welcome all anonymous comments, even snarky ones. But be warned: If you post snarky anonymous comments, you run the risk of (a) being mercilessly shot down by yours truly (I usually feel less bad about stepping on the cyber-toes of somebody whose identity I do not know; anonymity is a two-way street, you see...), or worse, (b) being altogether ignored by yours truly (and looking silly as a result).

Remember: With great power (to post anonymous snarky comments) comes great responsibility (for the consequences of said comments).



  1. let me see if i can comment. at first try, signing as cronyogitect, it didn't. now lets see if as anonymous.

  2. The primary series doesn't feel like tooth filling to me.. maybe because I'm not doing it right (no proper jump backs yet)? Or maybe the energy of led classes gets me really excited. I'm always happy to go to my class to practice with friends (even if I get very sore the next day).

  3. I'm happy the primary series doesn't feel like tooth filling to you, Yyogini :-) I don't think it has anything to do with not doing it right or not doing proper jump backs; in fact, in my experience, doing proper jumpbacks give a better rhythm and momentum to the practice, making it easier in some ways. It's probably the energy of led classes and the fact that you are practicing together with people whom you enjoy being with that makes it light and enjoyable :-)

  4. I appreciate your insight about Tooth Filing, it's extremely educational and more depicted points of interest.