By Alison Chambers www.dtlvdocumentarian.com
Max Carter’s perfect life came crashing down in the beginning of 2017. Karen, his beloved wife of 30 years, fell from her horse and suffered a fatal brain injury.
It was just four short weeks after I started hosting a Trauma Recovery Yoga (TRY) class in my commercial building that Max and I became connected. I was posting announcements about the class in various Facebook neighborhood groups, and one night while sitting home alone, Max saw one of my posts. He wasn’t sure why, but he was drawn to it. He reached out to me in a private message, sharing some details of what had transpired in his life. I was a little startled; we had no mutual FB friends and my experience with holding a public event was brand new. In addition, my own personal experience with trauma still had me in a state of hypervigilance, and getting messages from strangers was not cool with me. I took a screenshot of his message, sent it to Joyce Bosen, founder of Trauma Recovery Yoga and, at the time, the instructor for my class. She immediately told me to tell him to come to a class, so I did. And that’s how two strangers, each dealing with their own personal traumas and grief, started a friendship of love and support in an old VFW building on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Max discovered in his very first TRY class as I had just the month prior that there is something special about Trauma Recovery Yoga. He and I did not yet know any of the science behind the method, we just knew that it made us feel better, it provided us a sense of calm, and it felt like an entirely safe space in which we could be. Max returned the next week, and the next – he’s been attending 705TRY (the nickname I gave our class because it is held in my space called The 705) for the last two years, absent only a few times for work assignments, a brief respite at the ocean, or a road trip with one of his three sons.
Six months after his first TRY class, he wrote this: “Why would a lumpy old guy like me go to yoga? I still don’t know but I did. The realization that I wasn’t the only one in the room sweating profusely and tipping over was somehow welcoming. Then there was this magical thing called “Shavasana” that made me feel it was ok to cry. I didn’t understand what was going on but deep down inside I knew that I needed whatever it was that “Shavasana” was providing, even if it meant sweating and tipping over to earn it. TRY practice on Wednesday nights became the light that started me on the path out of darkness… What it turned into was a place where I could come and cry — where I could not worry about anything else.”
As was I, Max became drawn to the people who are involved with TRY – affectionately called the TRYb – and was gently encouraged to enroll in the Trauma Recovery Yoga Teacher Training, a 20 hour program held once a month in Las Vegas. He became TRY certified in January 2018 and taught his first class on October 19, 2018 at the then newly opened EndureLV, a facility for anyone seeking substance abuse outpatient services. Of this experience, Max wrote, “A year ago me leading a practice like this would have been unimaginable. Through TRY I have made peace with all those self destructive thoughts we all have.” He continues to hold “TRY Yoga with Max” classes every Monday evening at 6pm.
Not only did Max become a TRY-certified instructor, he went on to enroll in and complete the 200 hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) training in May 2018. One of the program’s requirements is to teach a class to the public. Max’s graduation class had 17 participants, of which I was one. It was during that class that my own tears began to fall after being absent for so long. Seeing how far Max had come in one year, watching the healing that had taken place in him ~ this just filled my heart and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I found out later that I was not the only one crying in that class – apparently there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
My connection with Max has been huge in my life. He came to 705TRY, was moved by it and fully embraced it. I have had the privilege of watching him overcome the darkness he was trapped in; knowing that the tools he found with TRY have helped him on his healing journey often brings me to tears. He and I both learned the value of those tears is immeasurable. Not being able to cry after a trauma is troubling at best; finally finding release through the feeling of helping another human being is huge. I affectionately call him “my Max” ~ helping him has helped my own heart. #werisebyliftingothers is one of the primary hash tags used by Trauma Recovery Yoga.
On his 2018 wedding anniversary, Max wrote, “A year later the circle of people that I find myself genuinely caring about and loving has expanded exponentially. A year ago I was trying to understand a life without the love of my life and while that hole in my heart will never be healed a small portion has been scarred over by the compassion and love I’ve found in the TRY community. Scars earned through love are blessings that are meant to be shared.”
Finding purpose in one’s life following a life-changing traumatic event is daunting, something that Max and I shared. For me, finding Trauma Recovery Yoga and the beautiful group of helpers and healers was a turning point in my life. Not only did I find a path to healing and peace, I found an organization whose mission to “help people, help people”, became mine. I became TRY-certified in February 2019. Though not yet called to teach, I have found my purpose in the documentarian role for TRY. Max’s easy-going, patient method of teaching TRY is well appreciated by the individuals who atttend his Monday night classes. He told me about a woman who showed up for his class whose biggest concern was whether or not she had to take off her shoes. One thing we say in TRY is “your yoga, your way”, emphasizing the importance of the power of choice of each individual in the room with regard to attire, position in the room, and which poses, if any, they will do. In TRY, even if you just sit on your mat and breathe, you are doing yoga. Once Max told the woman she didn’t have to remove her shoes if she didn’t want to, she seemed to relax and become much more open to what he was about to present. They engaged in a great one hour session of yoga. He shared this later, “As we were walking out she stopped and began to share a bit of her story, bringing me to the dichotomy that is this wonderful thing we are engaged in… Your Joy and Your Sorrow I make it mine.”
Max doesn’t look like the picture of a yogi portrayed on yogurt commercials – that thin, fit bendy young woman. He’s a big teddy bear of a man with a handlebar mustache who looks more suited for being seated on a Harley than a yoga mat. He grew up in downtown Las Vegas and has lived here all his life. He has been active in the local community for many years. He makes his own beer and whiskey, raises chickens and ducks, and his bee hives produce delicious honey.
Family is incredibly important to Max. There have been more than a few TRY events where his kids, grandkids or sister were present. Last April Max was asked to teach a TRY class for Army soldiers in Ft. Lewis, Washington when he visited his soldier son. It was a fulfilling experience for him.
I mentioned to Joyce Bosen I was writing this post about Max. She commented, “There’s so much to say about Max. His spirit is so big. He does so much for us I can’t even remember everything.” Max recently held a small get together at his home for TRY teachers to talk about their experiences, insights and truths about TRY and where it’s led them. Joyce went on to say, “It’s like he’s become the Father of TRY. His compassion for others and staying connected with everybody in the TRYb is huge. He’s forming a community within the community.”
In addition to teaching TRY classes, Max recently completed training by TIP, the Trauma Intervention Program, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that those who are emotionally traumatized in emergency situations receive the assistance they need. As a volunteer in the program, he is on call for 12 hour shifts. During those 12 hours, he may be called to emergency scenes to provide emotional and practical support to family members, witnesses, and other bystanders directly on-scene, during the investigative process.
I began using #mylifeisalldifferentnow on my posts after starting my life over following a very traumatic event. It expresses newfound strength, joy, experiences and lifestyle, etc. as I heal and move forward. I believe Max is able to say this now.
Additional information about Trauma Recovery Yoga may be found on their website at traumarecoveryyoga.org. Class schedules and descriptions, workshop information and more about the Downtown Yoga & Wellness Co-op can be found on the website at dtlvcoop.com.
TRY Yoga with Max is every Monday night 6pm-7pm, EndureLV 3087 E. Warm Springs Rd. Suite 100 Las Vegas, NV 89120. Questions? Call or text him at (702) 338-8603.