I had a really weird and wonderful experience recently while sitting, of all places, in the dentist chair having major dental work. Trying to fend off pain and fear, I closed my eyes and started slow rhythmic breathing, like in yoga class or during meditation. Focusing solely and intently on my breath, something amazing and unexpected happened. As if I was an onlooker, I saw myself meditating in my little yoga/mediation space at home. I was sitting perfectly still in meditation, legs crossed, the backs of my hands on my knees, and fingers in Gyan Mudra. Eyes closed, my face was calm and peaceful. The sun was streaming in through the glass door. Feeling my body from a place outside, I felt the sun’s warmth and bore witness. I felt no fear, no discomfort, and no pain. I was transported, at least in my mind, to a secure, familiar, peaceful, and loving environment. This out-of-body experience lasted for close to an hour. Awareness only returned to the dentist chair when the procedure was over.
I remember vividly the day one of my yoga teachers explained that we take the lessons we learn on our yoga mats and apply them in our everyday lives. I was already incorporating yoga/meditation techniques in my life, but articulating that which I already empirically knew was like a light bulb turning on in my head. For me, the most powerful tool developed in yoga/meditation is the ability to stay calm in stressful situations. Slow, smooth, repetitive breathing keeps the heart and mind from racing. Focused attention keeps the mind clear of distraction and intrusive thoughts. These techniques have transformed my life.
Everyone’s yoga/meditation experience is unique. I can’t promises an out-of-body experience the next time you have dental work. What I can assure you is that yoga can be more than just a physical practice. Among other things, it can help you find calmness in stress, clarity in fog, and truth in confusion.