Yoga instructor Scott Carter sits by the front window of TeaHaus on a recent winter afternoon with a black driving cap atop his head and a cup of herbal tea in his hands. As owner of Yoga with Carter—which offers virtual and in-person classes at different venues around Ann Arbor—he’s on a quest to make yoga “accessible to everyone.”

A former hockey player and motocross racer, Carter says he “rolled my eyes” when, at age twenty, a girlfriend
dragged him to a yoga class. But later he had a revelation: “That stretching feels pretty good!” | Photo: J. Adrian Wylie

“My body was so abused for so many years, and I was taught to pay no attention to that,” explains Carter, fifty-five, a former Junior A-level hockey player and motocross racer. He says he “rolled my eyes” when, at age twenty, a girlfriend dragged him to a yoga class. But later he had a revelation: “That stretching feels pretty good!” 

Carter—his last name doubles as his nickname—moved to Ann Arbor in 2011. Coming off a divorce and seeking a fresh start in a “progressive and creative community,” he tapped years of yoga practice and training to launch his business. 

He now teaches weekly at Hoover Street Studio and StudioStudio (next door to York)—and to AAPS teachers through Rec & Ed, and to Google employees at their Ann Arbor office. He also leads “Bends and Brews” at Bløm Meadworks.

During the Covid lockdown, he added twice-a-week Zoom classes. Paula Greene, who’s followed Carter since he taught at the Ann Arbor YMCA a decade ago, says the virtual classes “gave me consistency during chaotic times.” A vault of recorded classes on his website, as well as classes on the meditation app Insight Timer, bring in students from as far away as Australia. “He’s got a rock-star vibe,” Greene says, and a “down-to-earth” style that draw people to him.

On the winter solstice, Carter hosts an evening class at Hoover Street Studio to mark the new season and new year. The room is lit only by battery-operated candles at the head of each mat. He opens with a series of sun salutations.

“Get out of the head and find the breath,” he encourages, telling the two dozen students to “listen to your body” and ease into the pose. During hip openers—or pigeon pose—he invites the class to write stream-of-consciousness thoughts on a piece of paper—including their word for the new year.

“Happy” is the word that comes to mind for Alison Swan, who explains afterward that it was her first in-person class since the start of the pandemic. She’s taken classes with Carter for six years and calls him “a natural-born teacher.”

“I love that he is always up for trying new things,” Swan says, like the “sound bath” he orchestrated at the end of today’s class, with gongs and Tibetan singing bowls. (Carter’s also hosted wine-and-chocolate-themed classes and will lead a “yoga tea” this month.) “We tend to be a brainy town,” says Swan, “but it’s also fun to be cerebral and creative in your body.” 

Carter notes that many people experienced “a separation from community and loved ones” during the pandemic: “There was a massive disconnection.” He says the body stores trauma, and that yoga can help release it.

“I had an ex-Marine, a big dude, who was doing my class and two days later I ran into him … he said two hours after my class he was crying like a baby, and he didn’t know where it came from.” Carter says the release can elicit giggles, too.

Growing up in Westland, Carter was a “high-energy kid,” with an older sister and parents who ran a successful second-generation silk-screen business for the auto glass industry.

He laced up his first hockey skates at age five and raced motocross into his teens. His body paid a price: three concussions; three hernias; breaks to his neck, nose, collarbone, hands, fingers, ribs, an ankle, and his feet—and 200 stitches, mostly to his face.

At just under six feet and 160 pounds, he “wasn’t big enough or good enough to go professional,” he says, and “I was so beat up, I was done.” He gave up competitive hockey at nineteen.

He enrolled in classes at Schoolcraft and EMU and took over the quality control area of the family business. In the early 2000s, a friend recruited him to make a movie with him about the meaning of life. Carter, who’d never operated a video camera, devoted three years to filming and editing the documentary One. 

Available on his YouTube channel, “Yoga with Carter,” it features a thirty-something Carter sporting a mullet, and interviews from spiritual leaders including Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Robert Thurman. He says “the universal truths of struggle, acceptance, and loving-kindness” he learned during the project have informed his teaching ever since.

He credits “the queen of Ashtanga” yoga, Beryl Bender Birch, for pushing him to the front of a class to teach for the first time when he was studying with her in 2006. Six years later, still working for the family business, he had a day of reckoning inside a Tennessee auto glass plant: “It’s loud, and there’s no heart, and I was teaching yoga at the time—and I said [to myself] ‘What am I doing?’”

 He left the family business for full-time yoga instruction, and in 2017, he married fellow yogi Jule Krüger, a political scientist who works for Amnesty International. They live on Ann Arbor’s west side with their two-year-old son; he also has two adult daughters from his previous marriage. In his spare time, he writes poetry and paints.

His “adrenaline junkie days” may be behind him, but Carter says he’ll still occasionally play hockey at the Cube or take a motorbike out for a spin. Most of the time though, the only bike he rides is the twelve-speed he pedals to yoga class.