by Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS
Many hygienists experience musculoskeletal tension associated with the mental, physical, and emotional stresses of treating patients and working in a dental office. Christel Autuori, RDH, BS, has developed a program entitled “AcuYoga for You and Your Patients” as a way for hygienists to release and prevent tension.
Yoga is not simply a physical fitness routine; it encompasses and unites the body, mind, and spirit. Stretching the body in conjunction with deep breathing brings balance and harmony to the mind and body while creating health, energy, and well-being.
Acupressure manipulates body energy through a system of points and meridians. AcuYoga is a combination of acupressure and yoga which stimulates the acupressure points and meridians to achieve inner balance. Christel’s program emphasizes breathing, stretching, and yoga postures that benefit the body by increasing flexibility and releasing tension. In addition to the physical benefits, the mental benefits of yoga include sharper concentration and focus and a better ability to manage daily stress.
Christel’s program teaches participants techniques for releasing and preventing musculoskeletal tension. She demonstrates acupressure techniques that help patients relax during dental or hygiene treatment. Christel also incorporates techniques for pain management. Yoga postures specifically geared toward the dental professional that can help prevent carpal tunnel and thoracic outlet syndrome are stressed.
Anyone, whether novice or yoga master, can benefit from this course. Participants proceed at their own pace and abilities regardless of flexibility or physical limitations. Christel provides a handout which describes several yoga postures and contains diagrams of useful acupressure points for participants to take back to their practices.
The delivery of quality dental care is the primary goal of dental practitioners. Equally important is managing patient anxiety and discomfort during procedures. Participants in “AcuYoga for You and Your Patients” learn to identify and utilize acupressure points in the hand that relieve discomfort in the head, including dental discomfort. The acupressure points on the sternum that help relieve anxiety and restore balance to the emotions are used to alleviate the anxiety of dental patients. In addition, acupressure points on the face and head are stimulated to relieve tension in the temporomandibular joint, which can contribute to headaches and jaw and facial pain.
The daily stress and tensions of dental practice have a negative impact on the body and emotional state of clinicians. Participants in “AcuYoga for You and Your Patients” learn to identify and stimulate acupressure points on the body to release musculoskeletal and mental tension that accumulates daily in the practice of dental care.
Christel became interested in acupressure as a way to alleviate her own musculoskeletal pain and tension. During her early years of practice, ergonomics was not recognized and addressed, and she developed neck and shoulder pain. Although the regular practice of yoga alleviated some of her pain, she also became interested in acupressure. She studied under Michael Reed Gach, Director of the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, Calif., and became a certified AcuYoga instructor. Christel is also a certified Reiki I and Reiki II practitioner. Reiki is an ancient hands-on healing technique that revitalizes and balances the body’s energies. She is the yoga instructor for the Ridgefield, Conn., high school wrestling team and conducts workshops for other athletes in the Ridgefield area.
In addition, Christel presents a program about her experiences in the early 1970s at the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists’ Rotunda Project. Christel was one of 10 research hygienists who participated in the Project, the only one of its kind in the United States. Trained practicing hygienists in all phases of restorative dentistry participated in the irreversible procedures of removing carious tooth structure.
In three double blind evaluations, it was proven that the hygienists, after only 26 weeks of training, could perform restorative dentistry as well as experienced practicing dentists! An idea ahead of its time! However, due to the political environment, the project was forced to close in 1974. Christel now shares her experiences of the Project and relates them to the current ADHA proposal of Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner (ADHP).
Christel is currently a practicing hygienist in private practice in Connecticut. With her experiences in the Rotunda Project, she has been an instructor at the Fones School of Dental Hygiene, University of Bridgeport in dental materials, and dental hygiene clinical practice.
Christel is a director and team leader for Cape CARES, a volunteer organization that sends medical and dental teams to provide care to the poor of Honduras, where there is little access to care. There are no doctors or dentists routinely in this remote area and the people rely on the Americans for their medical and dental needs. Christel and the other members of Cape CARES provide clinical services, as well as basic homecare needs (see Nov. 2005 RDH Magazine).
For more information about Christel, AcuYoga, or Cape CARES, contact her at [email protected]. She will be presenting “AcuYoga for You and Your Patient” May 5 at the Hartford Dental Hygienists’ Association meeting.
After spending more than 25 years in private practice, Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS, FAADH is currently a faculty member at Mt. Ida College’s dental hygiene program. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and is also pursuing a master’s degree in education in instructional design. Ann-Marie has written numerous articles and provides continuing education programs for dental hygienists and dental team members. She can be reached at [email protected].