Max Munro has been on an incredible roller coaster journey so far. Stepping into the yoga world at age 16, which paid dividends later in life when yoga was cited as speeding up his recovery from a traumatic brain injury. We are stoked to welcome London-based yoga teacher Max onboard as a Warrior Addict Brand Warrior.
Max, you've had an interesting route into your first yoga class when you were just 16. Can you tell us a little bit more about how your journey started?
When I left school at 16, I went to America for martial arts, stunt school and to get into film. By coincidence my Mum was doing a yoga teacher training. Eventually she dragged me along to one of her classes -there were lots of different groups there: guys, people who were younger and it was really, really tough. After doing pretty much three classes back to back, I was just like, this is so good. I continued to go for about a month then the main teacher asked if I’d considered teacher training. I laughed, but he sold it to me. A few weeks later I was on a teacher training course – and with only one other student, it was intense! On completing the course, I didn’t have the confidence to teach at age 16, so I took another couple of courses and it was finally Broga that really boosted my confidence – I started full time teaching at age 19!
In February last year I fell off a roof. I had a brain injury, broke my neck, fractured my skull, broke bones in my face and had two severe bleeds on the brain. That’s when things kind of came tumbling down. Like, "You're not going to walk properly again if you survive the operation." Like, "He's not going to be that functional in society. A bit of a vegetative state, maybe paralyzed."
After I came out of surgery and out of intensive care my parents were told it had gone well but they didn’t hold very high hopes. My injuries were the top 20% of fatal injuries for brains. At the time I was unaware. I was oblivious to all this really. Once I came off the medication, I was able to stand up and walk about, I felt unsteady but I didn’t really know what was going on.
That’s when I think yoga training kicked in and my balance came back, a finger started feeling normal . Around four weeks after the morphine had stopped , I just literally clicked. I thought "Why am I in hospital? What the hell is going on? I feel fine. Get me out of here."
The doctors said "We got keep your here because your brain is still not healing properly. Your memory is still bad." I was oblivious to it at the point. I thought I was fine. Each week though I would notice an improvement on the previous week. That still happens to this day. I’m improving all the time.
So how has yoga played a part in your recovery? Obviously, the fact that you did yoga has helped but now moving forward?
I was teaching 15 classes a week and doing a little bit of my own practice and I loved the strongest stuff, power yoga, building up for like handstands, inversions, arm balances. In order to get strong with that style, I was always pushing myself doing multiple push-ups in my chaturanga sequences and then I think after months and months doing that, the subtle changes become quite big. Then all the muscles in my body started working together. I was like, "Okay, I can do handstands now”. Then I wanted to be able to do floating hand stands and one-handed hand stands. I think having that strong practice made my mind pretty strong with it. I hadn't necessarily done a lot of meditation and I was kind of sceptical about that side of the practice. I think, unknowingly, I had been meditating through the practice. Being very focused. Now I believe my main thing with yoga is I think yoga is self-awareness. I'm certainly 100% sure that I'm more aware than any other 23 year old I know. Whether they do a lot of fitness or meditation or not. I'm hopeless at computer skills and academically, but in terms of being grateful and right here and present in the moment in this world, I definitely feel like I've sussed that. Maybe you have to be so close to death to realize that or maybe that's what yoga is. I think it's a bit of both. I'm glad the accident has happened. I'm so grateful I found yoga. It's the best job to be doing in terms of my injury. Because it gets me tired, but it also gets me out of the tiredness if that makes sense.
How do you think things might've been different had you not become a Yogi before that accident?
I don't know. Actually, maybe the accident would have always happened because I was always climbing. So it was either I would've had the yoga body or not. I think if I had hit the concrete, my body wouldn't have been as subtle and as prepared for a whack to the head like that. I think I probably would've died there and then on the spot if I'd had quite an inactive lifestyle.
You're the youngest person to qualify as a Budokon teacher. What drew you to that particular teacher training?
The TT course was convenient and I'd spent a few years doing martial arts. My Dad suggested Budokon so we went to meet Cameron Shayne, the founder and I did a training session with him. I started the Budokon TT course the following Monday!
What makes your classes unique?
I think because I'm young, I've got that kind of childish mindset still and I don't take myself too seriously. I don't let anyone have their ego inflated in the class. My music and playlists a little bit more current. My classes are really relatable. So I get to know everyone quite personally. Plus, towards the end of each class, I encourage small connections/introductions between everyone with some partner. Then the next week they can be like, "Oh hi your Karen from last week," and then boom, there's a little connection and that can just start a domino effect.
I try to do that in yoga classes as well as Broga classes. And to get a younger... I mean all generations drink, but I think for youngsters 18 to 25 that drinking, they let the hangover get the better of them and they don't exercise. So there's a certain exercise I'll do. I'll be like, "Try this out. If you're going to go for a drink this evening, on a Friday. And you're going to feel shit tomorrow on the Saturday, I want you to try this, I want you to try that."
What do you say to guys that feel intimidated about stepping foot into a yoga studio?
Try it. And if you don't like it I'm sure we can work out some sort of bet or arrangement that I'm the one that suffers. You're going to turn up for free, if you like it, you donate what you want to donate. If you don't like it, I'll eat my hat. So that...
Finally before you leave us Max, can you give us some words of wisdom?
I think yoga is the perfect thing to find yourself direction in what you want to do in life. To find a purpose. Although I think my purpose was changed due to the accident I had, I still truly now believe that I am on this earth for a purpose. And I think once you find that purpose, you'll be so content with life. And I think yoga will help you find your purpose, whether it's to do yoga and help people do yoga or whether it's to do something in the corporate world, but using yoga to get there, is the way to do it.
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