For many yogis, practicing yoga is life-changing. That couldn’t be more true for Taylor Hunt, the owner of Ashtanga Yoga in Columbus, Ohio.
Over six years ago, Hunt was six months sober and working through a 12-step program. While working on Stage 11, which involves committing to some form of spiritual practice, such as mediation or prayer, a friend introduced him to yoga.
At first, he resisted the idea. “I ran into her at a 12-step meeting,” recalled Hunt. “She walked over to me and said, ‘I think I’m supposed to teach you yoga.’ And my response was, ‘Yeah right.’”
After speaking to his sponsor, who reminded him that yoga would be a great way to practice the 11th Step, Hunt changed his mind.
The first class was anything but easy. According to Hunt, he went in with the mindset that yoga was a competition, and compared himself to the other, more experienced yogis in the class. In addition, yoga brought up a lot of suppressed feelings.
“From the very beginning in my sobriety, what I realized was I had pluses and minuses of my character, assets and liabilities and yoga brought it up immediately,” said Hunt. “I realized how much I really hated myself for all the things wrong I had done to myself and people, and that showed up on the very first day of my yoga class. Long story short, I laid down for shavasana and I had tears welled up in my eyes. I was never going to come back. Never.”
But he did. Hunt’s sponsor encouraged him not to give up. “I reluctantly went back to the second class, and everything had changed,” he recalled. “It wasn’t a competition, I didn’t compare myself to someone else. My relationship to the whole day was totally different.”
That second class made all the difference, as a result of his transformed mindset. “The cool thing was when we laid down for shavasana [the second class], and I tell this in my book, it was the first time in my entire life that I felt value inside,” recalled Hunt. “Ever since that time, I’ve never not done yoga. I’ve done it every single day. From there, I found my true confidence and true self esteem, believing in myself that I can achieve things, stay sober.”
At first, Hunt was comfortable practicing yoga as a student. But eventually, he strived for more. He started making trips to India and eventually earned the blessing of Sharath Jois to teach yoga in the U.S. From there, Hunt took steps to open his own yoga studio.
Today, Hunt is the proud owner of Ashtanga Yoga, a studio and community space dedicated to sharing the transformative and healing practice of Ashtanga.
Hunt’s favorite part about being a yoga studio owner is the freedom it provides. By that, he means, “The freedom to do whatever the student base needs, whether it’s workshops or individualized teaching or trainings, whatever it is,” he explained. “That seems like the best thing. Our whole studio’s focus is understanding that we’re not alone, because that was part of my journey too.”
The biggest challenge has been sharing that message with the community. Hunt wants as many people as possible to know about the powerful healing yoga can provide. And he encouraged other yoga studio owners to strive to do the same.
“Make your message as loud as possible,” advised Hunt. “Figure out who you’re trying to talk to and talk to those people. Go big or go home. Do it as big as you can possibly do it and do it in an organized fashion. That’s the lesson that I’ve learned.”