The Blood Test


If you saw me last night, you would have told me to wipe that bloody smile off my face. I got rid of the bloody part, but the smile remained. (Illustration by me)


Shortly before yoga last night, I scribbled down the names of my students on a pink heart-shaped Post-it, then made a quick stop to the toilet. I casually stuck the Post-it in my mouth to do my pre-teaching rituals, after which I briskly removed the list from my lips. Now if this was a cheap, fake Post-it, this would not have been a problem. But this was a sticky 3M original, so, well, rrrrip. There was a stinging sensation in my lower lip, and then hot liquid began to pool on said surface. I sharply turned to look at my reflection: I was a vampire yogini. Keeping my wits, a pulled a tissue and began teaching my class, blotting my lip every few seconds, and seeing a bright red spot on my Kleenex each time. I wondered why some of the students looked shocked as I spoke, so I explained what had happened. I put them in a heart-opening supine pose, and asked them to close their eyes while I took the tissue box from the bathroom. I took another glance in the mirror and saw the blood has spread to my teeth. No wonder some of them looked at me in disgust; I looked like I bit off the head of a live chicken!

On any other day, I might have choked and given in to the distraction. But last night, even if the metallic taste of blood kept reemerging in my mouth, and the bright red spots continued to stain my tissue, I knew there was nothing else I could do but blot, breathe, and teach. Blot, breathe, and teach. The discomfort of any challenge goes away when you focus on the goodness of many other things around you. In my case it was the positive energy of the students, the support of a friend and fellow teacher who joined the class, and the motivation to bring the students to a better place.

By the end of my class, it was like the bloody challenge never happened. I still have some souvenirs, though: a stinging sensation when I eat anything salty or sour, plus the Post-it with my students’ names and bits of lip skin still stuck to it.


Mountain or mole hill?

In lieu of a photo of a daunting, steep hill is my view of said hill from its base. It was harder to draw this hill than climb it.

In lieu of a photo of a daunting, steep hill is my view of said hill from its base. It was harder to draw this hill than climb it.

There’s a steep hill that I bike up every morning on my way to language school. As soon as I see the foot of said hill from several meters away, I have to physically and mentally prepare myself. I shift my gear down, take a deep breath, and start pedaling.

On bad days (i.e. moments after a challenging yoga class or the day after a long bike ride or hike) this hill is K2. My normal breathing turns into to heavy huffs, every muscle group in my body burns, and the entire ride up feels like forever. On good days though, it’s simply a gradual upward slope that kindles some heat under my clothes and forms beads of sweat on my skin. I’ve passed it several times on my runs and have tried taking a photo to show how steep it is, but every time the photo comes out, it doesn’t look like the mean, towering hill that it is. Which just goes to show that whether I’m having a good day or a bad day, that ascending stretch is the same hill—day in and day out. What changes is my attitude and the shape I’m in on that given day.

Moving from climbing that hill to living my life day by day, I’ve learned that when I’m running or practicing yoga or climbing—or simply going about any event on any given day, I have to take that particular activity for what it is at THAT VERY MOMENT. It doesn’t matter if I managed a forearm stand weeks before, or that I wobbled in my tree pose just a few moments ago, or if I managed a sub 1-hour 10K long before. We have to learn to let the past go and be thankful for it (or in the case of my wobbly tree pose, be glad that it’s over), and focus on the HERE and NOW.