The healing power of yoga, medication and words

In this line of work, there are certain words reporters hear repeatedly, to the point where we don't question their meaning, they just willingly hop in the notebook or lodge comfortably in the tape recorder.

"Community" is one of those words.

How often it is that someone will say that a given group supports the such and such community or some event "is about the community."

"Community" has a mollifying effect on people and ascribes worthiness to a particular subject.

Compare "zombie lumberjacks" to "the zombie-lumberjack community."

Another one of those words is "healing," or as it is sometimes referred to, "the healing."

Some unspeakable act or horrible tragedy will befall a nation, town or, yes, community, and a politician or priest will say, "It's time for the healing to begin," or the like.

I'm not, of course, questioning their sincerity or natural human instinct to sound a sympathetic note in a trying time.

Lately, though, I've been wondering when "the healing" conjugates further to "healed."

I have a personal reason for this.

Throughout 2007, I wrote a series of columns for the Times weeklies about my lifelong struggle with psoriasis.

I've dealt with flaking skin and a pervasive stinging sensation throughout my body since I was 12 years old.

Psoriasis has been a major contributor to depression, my own rescued little black dog, that, while housebroken, still requires long walks in the park.

But now, four years on, I'm happy to report that my psoriasis - we do claim ownership of diseases don't we? - is in remission.

I'm on a new course of treatment, and, thus far, it's been life-altering.

I'm reluctant to reveal the name of the medication here, as pharmaceutical companies are perfectly capable of buying ad space.

In addition to my meds, I started practicing yoga about 6 months ago.

And I do Baptiste yoga, or "hot yoga," which is essentially a game of supercharged Simon Says in a 95-degree room. It's barely sane, but it's also a great workout and mentally refreshing. I recommend it to anyone.

From the posters I've seen, yoga is often presented to would-be practitioners as a "healing" art, and for many it most certainly is.

For me, though, yoga prompts meditation on the word "healing."

As you might imagine, you sweat like a beer mug in August during a hot yoga session.

When I sweat profusely, it causes the places where I had psoriasis lesions to show themselves in a darker shade of red than the rest of my skin. It's like my perspiration is a special marker that reveals words written in invisible ink.

"It's better," I think, "but it's still there."

I wouldn't be so presumptuous to speak for other people in how they cope with their diseases or tragedies. And, of course, truly getting healed would be a wondrous thing. But there's something about the grammar of "healing," as present participle or as a gerund, that makes me optimistic.

It suggests ongoing action, movement, flowing forward, breathing more.

I'm writing that down.


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