In 2015, my spouse of over thirty years shot himself as I sat in front of him. It was traumatic, awful and everything else. I immediately experienced a weird, disturbing, indescribable physical “vibration” in my legs, which nothing seemed to alleviate. It wasn’t pain, it was just there. It wasn’t something you go to a medical doctor and say, “There’s a vibration in my legs.” I lived with this for 2 years. What I later learned is often when we experience a trauma, we are either already sitting down, or we are told to sit down for bad news. That negative energy, stress and aftermath of traumatic events can settle in the hips and legs and go deep into the muscles. I started having excruciating headaches, and while an Rx helped, I knew I didn’t want to travel too far down that slippery path.
In the summer of 2017, I saw a post on Facebook for a Trauma Recovery Yoga (TRY) class at a studio very near my home. Now, I had been a woman who all my life had never had a desire to do yoga. Never. But for some reason, I felt compelled to attend. As I heard the instructor’s words, “Are you breathing in, or are you breathing out?”, the focus it took to answer that question was everything. After completing that first hour, I knew in my heart I needed this in my life, and that this was what was going to heal me. And then, it became something that I did every week. And I got better. About 6 months into my weekly date with my yoga mat, the painful tension headaches that had forced me to seek pharmaceutical remedies went away. The strange vibration in my legs lessened, and eventually disappeared. Through meditation, various yoga poses, and self affirmations, I was able to eliminate the physical manifestations of my trauma.
What is TRY? Trauma Recovery Yoga is a series of postures linked with breath, self regulation tools, meditation, self affirmations, and optional essential oils applied by the instructor on the shoulders at the close of the practice. The postures are carefully selected based on science; one’s balance may be affected by concentration so there are no standing balancing poses. There are also no advanced poses such as placing your foot behind your head. The instructor will offer alternative poses throughout the practice for those who are uncomfortable with or unable to do certain poses. Chair yoga is always an option for those unwilling or unable to get down on the floor on a mat. “Your yoga, your way” is stressed throughout the entire practice, and there is no judgment or stigma attached with using an alternative pose. Each pose is an invitation from the instructor, not a requirement. Bringing attention to one’s breathing requires presence. This is why the question, “Are you breathing in, or are you breathing out?” was so significant to me in my first practice. Having to concentrate and think about my breathing took my focus away from the negativity that I held within me. Self affirmations in TRY start with “I am…” The instructor speaks a variety of affirmations such as “I am a survivor”, “I am strong”, and “I am OK”, but participants are encouraged to say affirmations of their own silently or aloud as they are in downward facing dog, a resting pose for the internal organs.
TRY is not a place where you go around the room and share what has happened to you. You are in control of what you do on your mat and in the space, whether it is to fully participate in the class, or just sit or lie down. The power of choice is emphasized throughout the practice. Our space is quiet – sans music or chanting, there is no incense burning, our instructor stays on her mat, practices alongside us, and never “calls out” anyone for not being perfectly positioned in a pose. These are some of the ways in which TRY differs from other yoga classes. These guidelines were intentionally put in place by Joyce Bosen, the co-founder of TRY, who found it very upsetting the first time she returned to a regular yoga class after her trauma. She didn’t like that she couldn’t see the exit, there was music playing that had been her son’s favorite artist, and the instructor came and put her hands on her to “adjust” her pose.
My first TRY class was taught by Joyce. She had created the method to help herself heal from the trauma of her son dying. She had done yoga prior to her trauma, but when she tried to return to it for comfort, there were many things that were a trigger for her. So she set about to create a yoga plan for herself. As a Gold Star mom, she had been receiving treatment at the VA. When they noticed her improvement, they questioned what was helping her. She told them how she removed certain aspects of yoga and added in things for her own self care. They were so impressed with her progress they requested she bring it to the VA for others who were suffering. She did, and that was the beginning of TRY.
After my first class with Joyce, I told her I wanted to continue with TRY classes. She told me that while that particular class was her last time teaching TRY at that location, she would bring it to my building. I was beyond thrilled. I started hosting TRY classes at The 705, my commercial building on Las Vegas Blvd., hence the nickname 705TRY. Joyce taught for a few classes, then as she became extremely busy with teaching the TRY method to others, she provided another teacher, Danielle McCafferty, for our group.
When I started hosting 705TRY, I posted the event notice in different downtown neighborhood Facebook groups. One evening, I received a Messenger message from a man whom I did not know, nor did we have any mutual friends. He told me he had recently lost his wife in a tragic accident, it was their wedding anniversary, and he was feeling so lost ~ but he had seen my TRY post and wondered if it was something he could attend. I invited him to the next class. That was a year and a half ago. Max has attended TRY at The 705 nearly every week since then.
At the time we each found our peace on the mat, neither Max nor I knew the science behind Trauma Recovery Yoga and why it works. In his own words from a post 6 months after coming to 705TRY, Max said, “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.” I knew all too well the feelings he was experiencing. It was well over a year before I could cry…more about this later.
Every week I speak to people who attend Trauma Recovery Yoga or who want to attend in the future. Sometimes I hear their stories, their experiences, their sadness, or their fear. Those who have just finished a class have a look of calm and relief upon their face, and sometimes tears will fall – perhaps unwillingly. I tell them that this is a safe place to cry, to open up, to feel.
One year after Max first came to a TRY class, he completed his 200 hour yoga teacher training and the 20 hour Trauma Recovery Yoga teacher training, becoming certified in both. One requirement of Max’s yoga teacher training was teaching a class for the public. I was among those in attendance. It was during that class that my own tears began to fall after being absent for so long. My broken spirit had held in tears and refused the emotional release as a way to protect me. Watching how far Max had come in one year, seeing the healing that had taken place in him ~ this just filled my heart and I couldn’t hold back the tears.
“We rise by lifting others.”
The thing about healing is when you help somebody else on their own healing path, it fixes a little part of your own broken heart. One of the most powerful things we say is #turninglossintoblessings.
Max now teaches a class of his own called TRY Yoga with Max at Endurelv, a treatment center in Las Vegas that strives to assist individuals struggling with addiction become fit in spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health. Recently he was asked by his youngest son who is currently serving in the U.S. Army to teach TRY to members of his physical therapy class.
I recently completed Trauma Recovery Yoga teacher training. It is a 20 hour program held over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It is taught by Joyce and her husband Darwin, the co-founder of TRY, and Dr. Nicole Anders, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They have trained over 200 yoga instructors all across the United States, who, once certified, can teach the TRY method anywhere in the world. Darwin, who researches much of the data behind TRY, said “science proves over and over again that what you tell yourself about yourself is what you believe about yourself.”
TRY is taught in at-risk schools throughout the valley, and after the October 1 shooting, TRY instructors offered free classes for victims and first responders for 60 days. 705TRY offered free classes during the entire month of October for anyone who needed it. TRY classes continue to be held for first responders at various locations throughout Las Vegas, including the Clark County Coroner’s office. Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg attended TRY classes in those first days following the shooting, and continues to praise the program for how it can help minimize the emotional trauma and stress for first responders.
After last Wednesday’s 705TRY class, I was speaking with John, one of our regular participants. I asked him how he came to be doing TRY. He said that Max had invited him to participate in his required graduation class last summer. He did attend and found he liked what TRY could do for him. He told me, “I don’t come for my body, I come for this” tapping his head. As I’ve said before, you don’t necessarily need to have experienced a specific trauma to need or benefit from TRY. Life itself is stress. We all face struggles, whether they stem from work, family, relationships, or a little of everything.
Ziya Nicole is our current 705TRY teacher. In addition to teaching at our space, she teaches TRY for first responders, to the public, in Title 1 schools and at the new Downtown Yoga & Wellness Co-op. She teaches those with special needs and veterans through Yoga for Life. And she teaches after school programs and other places through her own business, Live Inspired. Her sweet yet strong voice is encouraging and compassionate. She is there for us every week. One of the things about healing trauma is that reliability is important. Individuals in a fragile state of healing need predictability.
One evening last fall, we had a group of adolescents and their chaperones from a group called Adversities N’ Time, a local community organization that provides support to underprivileged families for a variety of struggles they may be facing. All students but one in the group participated in the TRY class; the lone student who opted out sat in a chair and watched. It was interesting to observe the students, mostly younger teens, make the attempt to follow along in class, and when it was time for self affirmations, several of them chose to speak theirs aloud.
Last summer we held an impromptu Family Night at 705TRY and a record number 16 participants enjoyed time on the mat together. Children are always welcome in our space. Visiting grandchildren as young as 4 1/2 have graced our mats and enjoyed the mindful movement.
705TRY classes are held each Wednesday at 5:45pm for one hour. A $10 fee is paid directly to our instructor. 705 Las Vegas Blvd. North, Las Vegas NV 89101
You can find out more about TRY by visiting traumarecoveryyoga.org.