Taylor Hunt’s yoga story is an unforgettable one. It’s difficult to assimilate the strong, confident ashtanga teacher with the addict he describes from his past, but the point of the story is exactly that: he is no longer that man. Ashtanga yoga helped shape him into the father, husband, and teacher he is today.
Taylor’s past mirrors that of many addicts: he started with alcohol and progressed to harder--and more affordable--drugs. He lost everything, even overdosing once, only to be revived and to continue using. After failed attempts at sobriety, Taylor explains that he reached a point where “I decided I wanted to live again, [and] I made a decision to do whatever it took to make it to the other side.”
When Taylor was 6 months sober, a friend of his “convinced” him to take an ashtanga class. Taylor says, “I did it as part of my recovery; I was doing everything that it took to be sober. I was 6 months sober and working on 11th step: prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
“I was learning how to integrate prayer and meditation at the same exact point that yoga entered my life,” continues Taylor. “I did one class with her, and I was completely floored at the level of difficulty that [ashtanga] required.”
“I was in a place where I didn’t want to do anything hard or anything that made me feel vulnerable,” Taylor confesses. “I did that first class and was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe how hard this is,’ and on the other hand, I thought, ‘I have to do something for my sobriety and this is falling into my lap.’”
Taylor forced himself to attend a second class the next week, and that following experience was much more positive. Taylor summarizes, “[That second class] was the first time I ever felt like I wanted to be me. It spoke to me so deeply that I wanted to keep going, keep doing it. I felt so much value on the inside of me that I was like, ‘I need to keep doing this because I feel like a different person.’”
The rest, as they say, is history. Taylor continued practicing ashtanga, making yearly trips to India for 1-3 months at a time, and became an authorized level II ashtanga teacher. Taylor explains the importance of this title: “To be an authorized teacher is to be given a blessing to teach this style of yoga. It’s not from a teacher training. It’s based off of character, level of practice, commitment to practice--all of that stuff wrapped up into one.”
“It means in ashtanga, we basically follow...the lineage of the teaching. We believe it matters that someone gave it to us beforehand. Authorization means we have experience, we’ve been to India…[and] there’s only a couple hundred of us all over the world.”
Taylor has been teaching ashtanga for ten years, but he has been practicing even longer. Taylor follows the ashtanga tradition: he practices 6 days a week, with one day for rest, and he completes his own practice before he teaches. This means Taylor begins his practice--which includes the physical asanas as well as pranayama, prayer, and meditation--around 3 in the morning in order to be done for the start of class at 5:30.
Taylor has performed this routine for 12 years--through dating and marrying his wife, Jessica, and having three beautiful children: Makayla (9), Isaiah (4), and Xavier (1). His family also travels to India each year, staying for at least one month and up to three so that he and Jessica can practice Mysore with Sharath Jois, the grandson of Pattabhi Jois, who is considered the “Father of Ashtanga Yoga.”
The unwavering dedication with which Taylor approaches ashtanga stems from the radical mental and physical transformation he has seen within himself and others. He expounds, “[Ashtanga] continues to give me clarity. It give me perspective on myself because a lot of the time, I don’t have a good perspective on myself.”
“Ashtanga shows me my commitment levels, where I fall short, what I need to work on, and all of that helps me stay in a place NOT of denial.” Taylor then explains that “addiction is the disease of denial….Addiction tells you that you don’t have the disease. Until you make up your mind to get sober, no one can help.”
“The person has to do it themselves; you’re not going to be able to help them,” discloses Taylor. “It’s hard to watch loved ones struggle, [but] they have to be able to experience their consequences or they can’t get sober. You can actually love them to death [by enabling them].”
Taylor Hunt wrote a memoir detailing his journey from darkness into light, titled A Way from Darkness. He is a Level II Authorized Ashtanga teacher, owner of Ashtanga Yoga Columbus, director of the nonprofit Trini Foundation, which offers free yoga to those in recovery, and owner of One Percent Theory apparel (shirts pictured in first and last photo).
Taylor Hunt will be hosting an Ashtanga Weekend at Yogaja Yoga Toledo from August 18-19. The weekend consists of workshops, including Learn to Float and Functional Anatomy, as well as traditional Mysore classes. Students may register for the classes individually ($35-$45) or for the entire weekend ($145).
TAYLOR HUNT QUICK BIO:
What do you love about Ashtanga?
“I like everyday showing up, facing myself, and competing against myself.”
Tell us about your methodology when teaching Mysore?
“Mysore gives me the opportunity to teach every single person individually. That services the people around me because I can use many different strategies.”
Favorite yoga pose?
“I don’t have any.”
Least favorite yoga pose?
“They don’t scare me anymore. I guess you could say tick-tocks or kapotasana.”
Describe ashtanga yoga in 5 words or less.
“Breath, bandhas, drishti, vinyasa, asana.”
Jessica (married 9 years), and kids Makayla (9), Isaiah (4), and Xavier (1).
Someone you admire?
“My wife, Jessica. The level of caring and nurturing I see in her helps me understand where I fall short. She’s the yin and I’m the yang.”