Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ujiai to survive blood work and roller coasters: Yoga off the mat

Within months of my introduction to yoga, I was already using one yoga principle regularly off the mat... Ujiai breathing. While I practice, Ujiai helps me focus and direct my energy to meditate in movement, to make it through a difficult practice and to assure that I don't just hold my breath and pass out (hah).

Interestingly enough, that audible breathing technique (like fogging up a mirror, but with your mouth closed) can be useful in other difficult, painful and/or scary situations. Such as waxing, needles, roller coasters and getting blood work done.

Today was a blood work day. The last time was four years ago, where I also used Ujiai breathing so I wouldn't vomit and/or pass out in front of the seniors. Thankfully, as it did then, it was also successful today (that and Andrew was there to hold my hand).

Interestingly enough, other types of breath constriction combined with speaking- like whispering, where your vocal folds (cords), are brought together close enough to vibrate while allowing air to scrape past, can be harmful to these precious communication musical instruments in your throat. Whispering is bad for your vocal cords- don't do it.

Thankfully we don't use Ujiai breath all day, otherwise it would also become damaging to our precious vocal folds. (Yoga instructors out there: please don't model Ujiai breath during your classes, combined with your "yoga teaching" voice, it's most likely damaging!).

So, my first  off the mat yoga practice has helped me get through various scary and painful situations. Thank you Ujiai breath.

What was your first Yoga off the mat moment?

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. hehe well it definitely wasn't the one where you make your hand like a paw and growl like a tiger, hehe - that was a first and a last class for me.

    now to be serious - i suppose it's the art of being courageous enough to let things go - i.e., the simplicity that is a twist to some in yoga has ironically been the most challenging move for me, and my teacher told me once it was because it was tantamount to wringing myself out and allowing the chips to fall where they may. what a visual! what a challenge! so i try to twist, mentally and physically now, try to be brave and trust that even after i do this, i will be okay.

  2. I have a blood draw on Tuesday and I always use Ujiai, as I did for my flu vaccine this morning (I work with far too many members of the public to not have a flue vaccine!)

    I can't remember my first yoga off the mat experience but it was probably during exams as I learned quite a lot of breathing techniques in my teens. I do remember having a breast biopsy a few years ago and Ujiai being so helpful then.

    Good luck with the blood draw xx

  3. Thank you for the tips! I love your speech path wisdom. :) I haven't modeled ujjayi in class yet (mostly b/c I am still practice teaching and started with the uber-basics b/c this crew had never done yoga), but I'll be mindful of how I do it so I don't wreck my voice. I remember you posted something about ice water being bad for the vocal chords too, so I try to remember that as well. Been drinking lots of herbal tea lately!


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