These soldiers at walter reed are making masks to reveal the hidden wounds of war. and to heal. – the washington post

Former Navy SEAL and Walter Reed patient Rusty Noesner holds his mask, which shows the conflicted sense of self he felt while serving. My yoga durham (Photos by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Chris Stowe worked on a bomb squad during six deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yoga studio Between tours he sought help for the headaches, anxiety, memory loss and other symptoms of trauma and brain injuries he suffered while being exposed to hundreds of blasts.

He tried talk therapy, medication and a self-prescribed regimen of yoga and meditation, before finding some relief in an unexpected form: a white papier-mache mask.


During an art therapy session at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he picked up a brush and painted something he had never been able to satisfactorily describe: how he felt.

His mask showed two sides of himself: the calm exterior side-by-side with a monster beneath, filled with rage, his eyes and mouth brimming with bees.

Nearly 350,000 U.S. Ejercicios yoga para principiantes service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries since 2001, according to the Defense Department. Prenatal yoga third trimester Thanks to modern body armor and military vehicles, many service members survive roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices, only to come home struggling to function.

The invisible wounds of war can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Postnatal yoga sf But the military is finding that art, and mask-making in particular, can spur the healing process.

Art therapy, along with music and creative writing, are integral parts of treatment at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed in Bethesda which opened in 2010 to study and treat traumatic brain injury and the psychological conditions that often accompany it. Easy yoga exercises to lose weight The therapeutic arts program has shown promising results and is expected to expand to 12 military sites around the country by 2017, through a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Yoga hareketleri video Congress appropriated $1.9 million this year to fund this military “healing arts” network.

Two dozen active service members come through each month for an intensive, four-week outpatient treatment program. Yoga richmond hill During the first week, art therapist Melissa Walker gives each service member a blank mask. Yoga exercises for neck stiffness She invites them to explore their identities or emotions surrounding their injuries or treatment as they decorate it.

“There is something powerful in the mask,” Walker said. Prana power yoga schedule “It literally and figuratively encompasses the areas we are focused on here, both the physical and psychological.”

What starts as a two-hour activity often extends beyond the first session, as service members return to the studio to keep working on their masks.

Brain injuries and trauma can actually impair verbal communication, research shows, but making art can help, particularly when it comes to processing traumatic memories.

Brain scans show that when someone attempts to recall a traumatic event, the left frontal cortex of the brain — the area responsible for speech and language — stays dark, while the parts of the brain that control emotion and the senses light up.

Art-making activates these same emotional and sensory areas of the brain. Bikram yoga chicago loop The job of the art therapist is to create a safe space for service member to tap into those difficult memories, and then to help them describe what they have created, opening a neural pathway that had previously been shut off.

Walker was inspired to work with veterans because her grandfather, a Korean War veteran, spent his life struggling with trauma. Yoga montreal downtown Shrapnel pierced his neck during one of the final battles of the war, and he fell facedown in the mud. Mindfulness yoga youtube Unable to call out, he was initially left for dead. Yoga studio north calgary schedule But he was eventually discovered and sent to a military hospital in Japan.

He recovered physically, but the trauma followed him. How to yoga poses Walker remembers her grandfather as short-fused and easily startled. Restorative yoga nyc He never spoke about his war experiences, even to his wife whom he met in the hospital during his initial recovery. Hot yoga clapham south But sometimes he had nightmares. Yoga for life shoreline Walker recalls a summer visit to her grandparents’ house when she was a little girl, waking to hear him shouting obscenities in the middle of the night.

Her grandfather died while she was in graduate school. Shanti yoga gulfport ms Since then, she has built a career trying to help other soldiers process their experiences so they aren’t trapped by them.

In the six years since the center opened, Walker has indexed more than 1,000 masks that soldiers have created and she has begun analyzing their themes.

Many masks depict physical pain (bloodshot eyes or a knife stabbing the forehead); some show literal injuries (shards of shrapnel in the face and a piece of skull surgically removed to relieve pressure in the brain). What is meditation music Others are metaphorical — one mask depicts a soldier’s confused thoughts as a swarm of flies coupled with a pair of chopsticks trying to capture them.

Some explore their military and national identities. Yoga source stl Patriotism is a point of pride and an instrument of suffering, as seen in a mask that shows two small flags propped up next to the eyes as blinders.

Some of the themes include pain, both physical and emotional, as well as community, cultural metaphors, a conflicted sense of self and death.

Some show hope and healing: A Navy nurse decorated half of her mask with sand and a large eye, representing an injury that impaired her vision, while the other side is a globe that represents a future career path in international health.

One of Walker’s patients was a senior-level service member who had been haunted by the image of a bloody face for seven years after a particularly difficult deployment, in which he suffered a concussion in mortar fire and he lost a close friend in a convoy to an improvised explosive device. Balance yoga studio He was supposed to be on the convoy; his friend had gone in his place.

For years he tried to avoid the feelings of guilt and hopelessness, but the image of the bloody face continued to haunt him. Maha yoga teacher training In Walker’s studio, instead of ignoring it, he made a likeness of the face. Yoga jobs chicago His mask was blood red with bulging eyes. Lotus yoga meaning In the process of making it, he began talking about it. Dallas yoga center classes When he was done with the mask, he put it in a box and put a lid on it. Yoga fit excelsior He left it for Walker to take care of.

Many soldiers leave their masks and memories behind. Yoga institute Walker’s studio is now filled with them. Sumits yoga gilbert They adorn the entrance to her studio, and the front lobby of the center.

Rusty Noesner, a former Navy SEAL, came to the center four years ago after he suffered brain injuries after falling out of a helicopter and during a blast in Kandahar.

He immediately gravitated to the art studio, he said. Swami ramdev yoga for flat stomach He created a mask that showed two sides of his personality, with a combat scene and a nature scene.

“No one wants to accept you have these emotions, this vulnerable side. Baba ramdev yoga videos weight loss download . . . Bikram yoga benefits You don’t want to have those things in combat,” he said. Yoga sport “But when you get home you have to reconnect so you can move on with your life.”

Noesner, 32, is out of the military and running a nonprofit group called War Paints, based in Harrisonburg, Va., that encourages veterans and service members to pursue art and tap into the part of the brain they abandoned while at war. Yoga poses to avoid while pregnant They can sell their artwork on his website.

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