Ten years after heart surgery, blood work is still a challenge for me. Taking daily anticoagulant medication (blood thinners) requires blood monitoring every four weeks, and it’s my least favourite ritual. It keeps me feeling like a perennial patient.
Having sampled countless phlebotomists from all over the world, I’ve become an astute connoisseur in, well, The Art of Blood Extraction. After 120 mini-invasions into my vein over the past decade, I believe I’ve earned this distinction.
I’m a fierce data collector in the moments before a needle slides in: I observe how the technician enters the room. Are they yielding to the space around them or aggressively pushing through it? I watch how they handle the vials, how they grab my arm to tie the elastic armband, and how they apply the alcohol swab to that tender area on the underbelly of my arm. Is there eye contact? Are they distracted? What is the quality of their voice? And what does my intuition tell me? If I’m bracing and my heart is racing, the red flag goes up. The cumulative effect of these experiences has made me more sensitive and bold in equal measure.
If I sense something is amiss when I sit in The Chair, I’ll politely excuse myself and ask for another phlebotomist.
Blood extraction takes ten seconds, but my energetic data-gathering begins way before that.
I’ve learned a great deal about teaching through my experiences in the blood lab. The way I enter a yoga class, in no small measure, is informed by a decade of observing scores of phlebotomists. I want my students to feel the same way I’d like to feel when I enter a lab: safe, relaxed, trustful.
That process begins way before the first Namaste.
How do you move through your yoga practice? Through your daily life? How do you pick up a water glass or transition to triangle pose? Are you thumping your feet and aggressively “pushing air” with your body? Or, rather, as my friend and colleague Tara Judelle would ask, are you “gracefully painting space”?
Your movements send ripples through the fabric of the cosmos. They carry signals. When you notice that people feel relaxed and safe in your presence, this is a sign you are making progress on the path.