Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Beautiful Bodies


I chose to leave healthcare to become a hot yoga instructor. Now I help heal patients in a different way.

I teach hot yoga now
Instead of practicing medicine
I guess I went upstream so far that
I fell out of the discipline altogether
I just wanted people to be healthy
And in my studio they are
They lose the weight
Their black heads turn bright and shiny
The anger drips out of their clenched fists
And they show each other small
Trivial kindnesses
That are not trivial at all 

So I stand straight like before
And give crisp commands
Like before
But now they heal

Something weird about Bikram yoga is the fixation on
Beautiful bodies
I don’t quite understand it,
I guess I’ve seen too many naked flopping mangled bloody forms
Crushed from one unsolvable problem or another
To really care about a six-pack
Or slender thighs 

No there is something else I see
And maybe you will understand
I see a surgeon’s, climber’s, cellist’s, or a carpenter’s hands and
I feel unutterable joy at their strength, and dexterity and the
Knobbly joints and angled fingers
And the calluses underneath that says it can
Grip and pull and pluck
A key 

I see a dancer’s or yogi’s feet and they curl in a
Knowledge of the floor and the
Blood flows to the toes with such effortless
And the arches are so high, and maybe they
Know things about gravity that we
Never learned
In medicine or physics 

And last year
In a gas station I saw a line of dusty men
No taller than five feet
And their mismatched clothes
Matched their farmwork and liquid brown eyes
From what country I don’t know
But as they ordered small cheap sodas in liquid Spanish
I stared at their beautiful bodies
And how . . . alive they all were from the dirt they were wearing and
The green things they pulled from it
As they trudged with the symmetrical grace
Of the athletes we were all born to be

So I guess I do care about beautiful bodies


There’s a fear among clinicians of leaving the profession. It’s a little like the military, it rewires you, and gives you a community, an identity, a focus. “Vanity Fair” wrote about it for post-combat troops. Perhaps, they posited, PTSD isn’t from combat, it’s from the social isolation that follows returning home.  

The reality is, not all physicians can practice medicine forever. I’ve seen doctors who left clinical practice to have children, were paralyzed, or simply were too sad after seeing so much sickness and death. I’ve talked to paramedics who had one child abuse case too many and doctors who chose a new career in computer engineering over suicide when they saw that writing on their wall. Sometimes people just need a break to heal. It’s not a betrayal to take time to heal yourself first.  

This poem was written to speak about being a healer who’s no longer formally a healer. Being a doctor, a clinician, breaks a part of the world open to you. Helps you see beneath the skin. And it changes you. When you leave a profession, a trade, a role, what part do you take with you?  

I think there is an observation of health, of the body, of beauty, that one can only gain from this experience. The experience of healing others. And healing is never lost, however you engage in it.  








This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.