As 2019 winds down and we look ahead to the new year, now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and consider areas of personal and professional improvement. While we often focus on how new products and services can help you perform at your best, that’s only one part of the equation. It’s also important to consider strategies to strengthen health and well-being.
This time of year can be challenging for some, and finding ways to stay healthy and well-balanced – both physically and mentally – is critical to maintaining a positive perspective both at home and at the practice. To explore this topic further, we asked Dr. Cristian Pavel, DDS, to share his unique perspective on how mindfulness, yoga, and meditation enabled him to unlock his passion for dentistry and transform his experience in the industry.
Dr. Pavel and his partner, Dr. Danielle Cascioli, DDS – collective known as the Dental Yogis – are practicing dentists and founders of Revive the Dream vitality retreats for dentists. Through a unique combination of yoga and life coaching, they teach strategies to foster self-awareness, physical strength, and mental resilience that can transform how dental practitioners approach their work.
Is it really possible to use your passions – whether yoga or something else entirely – to improve your well-being at the practice? Dr. Pavel has the formula, and we asked him to share how he successfully applied it to his own life. Check out his unique story below and check back in 2020 for a breakdown of how to apply this formula to your own practice.
How Yoga Helped One Clinician Turn His Dreams to Reality and Achieve Professional Success
By Dr. Cristian Pavel, DDS
If you were to tell me a year ago that I would be hosting a sold out workshop to dentists and hygienists in a yoga studio, that I would be lecturing to hundreds of people in large dental conferences, that I would be coaching and inspiring my peers, and hosting retreats, I would have told you that you’re crazy.
How is that possible? How could so much change happen in just one year? When I look back and reflect on this magical year, I realize that it all happened in just one moment.
It was the moment I decided to go ALL IN and BELIEVE in my dreams.
We all have dreams and ambitions that are bigger than what we allow for ourselves because we don’t think it’s possible. As we grow up, we inadvertently learn to conform and suppress our imaginations to the point where we no longer even know what we yearn for because we no longer give ourselves the permission to dream.
How did I get here?
For most of us, it only takes one moment of doubt to begin the suppressing our deepest dreams, which begins to kill our energy and repress that innate ability to bloom into our greatest being. For me this started very early.
When I was young, I LIVED in my head. There, I was a world-famous acrobatic stunt race car driver who always won first place. In reality, I was an immigrant from Romania with very poor English. My new world was very different and overwhelming, so my imagination was all I really cherished. My greatest struggles in childhood involved being forced out of my fantasy land by my parents, teachers, and peers. I was too ashamed to share my fantasies, even with my hard-working immigrant parents, so I instead began suppressing them and holding my head low.
My childhood goal may seem far-fetched, but the point of a goal is not to achieve it, it’s to absorb the energy and excitement of getting to pursue it. Whether I would have accomplished it or not doesn’t matter, goals naturally change as we do. But instead I repressed that dream and it KILLED all my energy and motivation. I morphed into a shy, introverted child who told himself he isn’t good at anything, so why bother. My only pleasures were ice cream, pastries, and cartoons. The rest of my time was spent self-loathing and longing to get back to my snacks and cartoons.
In time the pain of my isolation became so great that I began to listen to my dreams of making friends, talking to girls, and fitting in. I also began to form the dream of becoming a dentist after seeing the joy and success in my father, who lived the American dream. We came here with nothing when I was three. He worked hard to get accepted into dental school and worked a night shift during school to pay the bills. He then poured his heart into his dental practice alongside my mother, who took on the role of office manager.
The appreciation for their sacrifices along with my desire to follow in my father’s shoes gave me the energy to get into and through dental school. But at the same time there was also another dream brewing. Despite my childhood resistance, I began to fall in love with sports and movement. In college I started boxing, and in dental school I began to take that training more seriously. Boxing was my greatest passion, until I tore the left labrum of my shoulder while sparring. I wasn’t ready to let boxing go, so I kept pushing it and kept dislocating my shoulder. I went through several months of pain and anguish and it negatively impacted my confidence and motivation. All of this nearly pushed me to the point of flunking out of dental school!
My turning point came when my fiancé (girlfriend at the time) dragged me into a yoga class. I was instantly humbled by the degree of physical challenge it demanded. I was also very intrigued by the depth of anatomical and physiologic awareness that was being communicated by the instructor, and then I couldn’t believe how I felt after the guided meditation at the end of the class.
I knew instantly that this is what I had been missing in my life. I began attending yoga regularly and my shoulder began to strengthen along with my energy and lust for life, which helped me rebound from the bottom of my dental class to near the top!
Yoga also helped me become more in tune with my body. I began craving healthier foods and started to obsess over human optimization. I devoured all books and publications devoted to health and nutrition. Although I was getting older, my body began performing better – I could focus for longer periods, sleep on command, and exercise for hours without tiring.
From Dreams to Reality
In 2017, I completed my yoga training and began to teach classes. At first it was slow, so I questioned whether I should just be focusing on dentistry like all my colleagues. Naturally, this drained my energy and confidence and it actually had a negative impact on my dentistry. Every error I made on a patient I took very personally. I became more introverted, passed up or referred most treatments to my father, and started to sour on dentistry as a whole.
My only refuge was attending yoga classes, until one day when it hit me: I realized that I was repressing my dreams again, just like I did when I was younger. I also realized that I wasn’t alone. Most of my friends and colleagues started doing the same thing. So, a new dream began to form. I told myself that if I pursue my dream of teaching yoga, without holding anything back, then I can inspire my friends to chase their dreams too!
It worked. It worked so well that it only took four weeks to attain my dream yoga teaching position, and from there my energy burst open to an entirely new level. The greatest surprise was that through this practice my success as a dentist also began to flourish. I was no longer afraid of letting patients down and instead I became their beacon of inspiration. I began using yoga practices in my dental chair to help empower patients to reach their dental and health goals.
This was when I began merging my dream of becoming the greatest clinician with my dream of inspiring greater health and wellness. This super dream made me unstoppable. The moment I envisioned myself as a leader who is destined to help reverse this stress-based healthcare epidemic, was the moment that it already happened.
I share all this not to brag about my accomplishments. Inversely, I share it to say that if I can do this, you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to. All you have to do is allow yourself to believe. There is only one failure in life, and that is repressing any desire to pursue anything that might stretch your limits.
If Dr. Pavel’s story inspired you, be sure to check back in 2020 for his advice on how you can use your own passions to achieve greater mindfulness and improve your well-being at the practice.