Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Healing PTSD with Movement, Music, and Art

Free Flow Academy has been on the cutting edge of health and wellness because of our research hungry/savvy team.  4 years after our opening, we are finally seeing more and more hospitals and gyms adopt our line of thinking.  Movement and Mindfulness.  Movement and Art being taught together, as a combined set of practices, rather than being isolated and separated into singular educational business models.  What we are seeing now is that this adoption of movement and mindfulness practices are making some serious waves in the realm of health and healing, all backed by scientific data and more documented cases of success, from Veterans, Suicidal Teens, Drug Addicts, and many others who have experienced mental trauma.  People are sharing their stories about how movement, art, and/or music has given them the tools they need to feel worth while.  Neuroscience research sheds light on the fact that you can achieve a "Natural High" from positive activities/passion, and this information has been used to create entire curriculum's that are rooted in resiliency models of drug prevention, developmental asset frameworks, and Center for Disease Control Health Standards.

In order to provide market value, we have to be on the cutting edge, and because Free Flow Academy is a small business, we have the capacity to adapt to market needs according to the latest Science and Research that is available, whereas, larger corporations rely on small businesses like ours, to adopt new practices, prove that they work, and can be commercially viable. Larger corporations have greater financial resources, but their practices are generally outdated by the time they are willing to adapt.

Which brings me to the title of this blog - PTSD is a serious mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event - either experiencing it or witnessing it.  Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts, and behavioral changes. Many people experience PTSD, without actually realizing they are suffering. And to make things worse, many people have a tendency to over generalize the condition, or minimize it by saying this person "just has issues".  But as an educator and health & fitness service provider, we need to think more critically about the needs of our clients.  A recent divorce or breakup, tremendous pressure from school or work, family disfunction, a death in the family can take a toll.  You don't necessarily have to be returning from a recent deployment to have PTSD.  PTSD is generally not diagnosed unless the symptoms last for at least one month, and cause significant interference with work or home life.  A person must have 3 different symptoms:

(Excerpts taken from

1) Re-experiencing Symptoms - (excerpt) Re-experiencing symptoms are symptoms that involve reliving the traumatic event. There are a number of ways in which people may relive a trauma. They may have upsetting memories of the traumatic event. These memories can come back when they are not expecting them. At other times the memories may be triggered by a traumatic reminder such as when a combat veteran hears a car backfire, a motor vehicle accident victim drives by a car accident or a rape victim sees a news report of a recent sexual assault. These memories can cause both emotional and physical reactions. Sometimes these memories can feel so real it is as if the event is actually happening again. This is called a "flashback." Reliving the event may cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror similar to the feelings they had when the event took place.

2) Avoidance and Numbing Symptoms - (excerpt) Avoidance symptoms are efforts people make to avoid the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may try to avoid situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. They may avoid going near places where the trauma occurred or seeing TV programs or news reports about similar events. They may avoid other sights, sounds, smells, or people that are reminders of the traumatic event. Some people find that they try to distract themselves as one way to avoid thinking about the traumatic event.
Numbing symptoms are another way to avoid the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may find it difficult to be in touch with their feelings or express emotions toward other people. For example, they may feel emotionally "numb" and may isolate from others. They may be less interested in activities you once enjoyed. Some people forget, or are unable to talk about, important parts of the event. Some think that they will have a shortened life span or will not reach personal goals such as having a career or family.

3) Arousal Symptoms - (excerpt) People with PTSD may feel constantly alert after the traumatic event. This is known as increased emotional arousal, and it can cause difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger or irritability, and difficulty concentrating. They may find that they are constantly ‘on guard’ and on the lookout for signs of danger. They may also find that they get startled.  

There are several ways to treat PTSD:  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Medication, EMDR, Family Therapy, Psycotherapy, and alternative therapies such as Movement and Mindfulness.  

Recently I started caring for my Dad who is an 87 year old disabled vet.  The VA clinic and hospital has been a regular stop for us the past few months, and one thing you will notice is the multitude of fliers advertising free yoga and tai chi classes, painting classes, and different hospital run alternatives to treat the Vets.  I'm anxious to see the data on the results of their alternative therapies involving movement and mindfulness.  I'm certain they will find within the next few years, tremendous results on how effective and useful those programs are for the patients.  But for now I'd like to share a personal story of working with a recently returned Vet who went on 5 deployments to the Middle East.  He shared with me his account of healing after getting involved with with the Musical Production I choreographed and Free Flow Academy sponsored.

When I was accepted for a part in something inside is broken I went into it with some crazy feelings, after the first rehearsal I attended I was greeted like family, which for me was different. 5 years ago I stopped my theater acting and enlisted into the US Marine corps, 5 combat deployments, and seeing crazy shit go on has a major affect on a person, leaving myself hard at accepting to trust others, while in the marine corps we lived by a rule "meet everyone but always have a plan to kill them" but after the first rehearsal I was left shocked, confused, and thinking to myself. After the second and third time rehearsing I felt different, for the first time in my life after the marine corps I was accepted, and loved for being me (with all my crazy and hilarious antics) this group showed me something I had lost, you all showed me how to be myself again, and for that I am thankful and forever in all your debts. I have never been truly happy with anything not even myself, but you all opened your hearts to me and then I became truly happy with myself... - Sy
Movement, Artistry, and Mindfulness has the power to heal people, societies, and cultures.  Here the cast is participating in a gratitude circle, where members communicate and bond before a show.

Rehearsals at Free Flow Academy - the largest and most diversified Parkour Gym on the West Coast - we offer Dance, Music, Art, and Acting instruction as part of our Mindfulness disciplines.  
#PTSD #Naturalhigh #movement #mindfulness #healing #health

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