Las Vegas Sun

March 21, 2019

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This yoga class is a haven from grief’s powerful grip

Trauma Recovery Yoga Group

Steve Marcus

People participate in a trauma recovery yoga group at the 705 Art Incubator in downtown Las Vegas Wednesday, July 18, 2018.

Trauma Recovery Yoga Group

Joyce Bosen leads a trauma recovery yoga group at the 705 Art Incubator in downtown Las Vegas Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Launch slideshow »

Max Carter and his wife, Karen, built the perfect life for themselves. In 30 years of marriage, they had three grown sons, grandchildren and had recently purchased their dream home in Sunrise Mountain. But on Feb. 5, 2017, everything changed.

Karen always wanted a horse, and after years of waiting, she and her granddaughter finally picked one to take home.

“She was the happiest I’d ever seen her,” Max recalled.

But it was not long before Max heard a loud scream and the horse came running back alone. Karen fell, suffering a terminal brain injury. “My world collapsed,” Max said. “She’d been my whole world for 30 years.”

Following his wife’s passing, Max went to therapy, but nothing pulled him from the depths of despair.

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“My therapist had been gently nudging me to group or to find something to do — creative writing, something,” he said.

On one of those dark nights Max was sitting at home scrolling through Facebook when he saw a stranger’s post about Trauma Recovery Yoga.

He reached out to the woman, Alison Chambers, and “probably over shared a whole lot,” he said. “I was hurting.”

Chambers, who experienced her own trauma three years prior, had purchased the old Veterans of Foreign Wars Post building on Las Vegas Boulevard. The space, which she dubbed the 705, is one of many places throughout the city that offers Trauma Recovery Yoga classes co-founded by Joyce and Darwin Bosen.

Max went the following week.

“I came down, I sweat, I felt uncomfortable, I fell over,” Max said. “But then there was this magic thing called Savasana,” a calming, meditative position at the end of most yoga practices. “I had no idea what it was, but I liked it. What it turned into was a place where I could come and cry — where I could not worry about anything else.”

• • •

In 2012, after experiencing the trauma of losing her 22-year-old son Jacob, TRY founder Joyce Bosen turned to yoga to cope with her post traumatic stress disorder. “I needed to find a way to not want to kill myself that didn’t involve a pill, because I had other surviving children,” Bosen said. “That was the only reason why I (cared) to stay alive.”

After nearly a year of isolation, Bosen went back to the mat, but some elements of traditional yoga triggered her PTSD — music, dim lighting, unwanted touching and adjustments — it made things worse, not better. As a yoga instructor herself, Bosen began crafting a system at home that slowly helped to soothe her symptoms.

“I started to work with other mind-body professionals, talking to psychologists that I was being treated by [to] understand the nervous system [and] the hormones involved,” she said.

Picking different strategies from different therapy styles, Bosen patched together what she lovingly calls a “Frankenstein” yoga that happened to work for her.

“I was going to my talk therapist at the VA and she was like, ‘What are you doing, because you’re noticeably better.’ ”

After being asked by her therapist to share the practice with other veterans, Bosen received more requests to teach her new style of yoga. It was out of those early sessions that the nonprofit Trauma Recovery Yoga was born.

• • •

“The universe put us all together,” said Chambers, who attends class every week inside the 705.

“Everybody who comes in here is as anonymous as they wish. We don’t go around the room and say ‘What happened to you?’ You’re there to do yoga. If you leave right afterwards that’s your business.”

It’s that no-questions-asked, hands-off style that encourages people to peel back their outer shell. There is no music, and the hourlong course includes repetitions of phrases such as “I am beautiful,” “I am loved” and “I am OK.”

Bosen’s husband, Darwin, who researches much of the data behind TRY, said that “science proves over and over again that what you tell yourself about yourself is what you believe about yourself.”

As a result, many of the attendees have made lasting friendships or become instructors themselves.

The Bosens have trained about 200 yoga instructors, who, once certified, can teach the TRY method anywhere in the world.

This fall, TRY will be taught at 13 at-risk schools throughout the valley, and after the Oct. 1 shooting, TRY instructors offered free classes for victims and first responders for 60 days.

The idea, ultimately, is to create an environment where people feel secure enough to begin healing.

“We can’t possibly avoid all triggers, but we can err on the side of caution and have you feel as safe as possible,” Joyce said. “If you can feel triggered and then find a way to safety on your mat, you can do it in the world.”