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It’s not often you hear about plastic surgeons playing cops and robbers in a studio full of adults, or improvising an interpretive dance to a poem – much less an interpretive dance to a PRS editorial.

However, for Allen Putterman, MD, Chicago, such activities are an important part of the NIA classes that he teaches with his wife, Lynett.

NIA, which is short for non-impact aerobics, is an aerobic conditioning technique that combines dance, martial arts and yoga in a workout set to music. The couple’s commitment to the exercise took hold after a visit to New Zealand.When Lynett needed a massage after hiking and asked the concierge at the hotel about it, he advised her the masseuse might be able to provide more than just physical therapy.

“The concierge said, ‘If you tell her what you’re visualizing during the massage, she’ll tell you what it means,’”Dr.Putterman recalls.

Lynett had the massage, and when the masseuse asked here what she saw, she said she saw torture victims with splints and bandages around their heads, looking unhappy. Then she put a record on an old Victrola and started a playful dance. When the music began, Lynett said she visualized the victims starting to move around with her and smiling.

“The masseuse asked, ‘Is there anything like that you know about?’” Dr. Putterman says. “My wife recalled she took a NIA class in Mexico, and the masseuse declared, ‘This is what you must do.’”

The couple began four years of training in 2002, became Black Belt NIA Instructors, and now hold weekly classes in Chicago and Chesterton, Ind.

In their time as instructors, the Puttermans have held classes for patients who have various handicaps, cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Putterman says the movements help relieve the discomfort and rigidity some of the patients feel. It’s therapeutic for the patients, of course, but it’s also therapeutic for Dr. Putterman to be able to help people who are dealing with such diseases find a little bit of relief.

At the end of the couple’s classes, Dr. Putterman says there is usually a stretch and visualization, which can be a poem reading or a guided meditation exercise. At a recent class, Dr. Putterman says he was inspired to lead the class in an interpretation of a recent editor’s letter that Dr. Rohrich supplied for a PRS journal, which encouraged readers to continue dancing and moving – even when the music stops. The lesson, he says, can be applied to so many different facets of life.

“I read it at the class,”Dr. Putterman says. “We’re all dealing with so many unexpected things that keep happening in each of our lives. I was very impressed with the sentiment of the letter.”

Besides providing stress relief outside of the office, Dr. Putterman says the lessons he’s learned through NIA carry over and can help him in various areas of his oculofacial plastic surgery practice.

“I allow myself to be more vulnerable,”he says. “That’s helpful in taking care of patients, staying connected to them during surgery and responding empathetically as we deal with their issues together.”

Beyond empathetic connections, the technique also helps maintain posture.

“When we surgeons perform surgery, we’re bent over most of the time.” Dr. Putterman adds. “Most surgeons eventually lose their alignment, but the balance and core stability/mobility work we do in NIA improves posture. It keeps me young.”

Even outside of the O.R., the techniques and lessons learned from NIA and leading classes have helped Dr. Putterman when he has to present to an audience.

“It’s helped me become a better lecturer and a better writer,” he explains. “I’m more concise and more aware. Being able to get in front of an audience many times a week and make a fool of myself sometimes makes lecturing easier.

“I think the ability to be more playful sometimes is important,” he adds. “We lose that as we get older.”

— Published on page 20 of the April/May 2017 – Plastic Surgery News